The federal government will expand its role in training new doctors and nurses under the Democrats' healthcare reform proposals to the point that one prominent surgeon is warning of a federal "takeover" of medical education.
The HR 3962 reform bill that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled last week would provide billions in medical-education grants.
Some of those grants would help future doctors and nurses pay for their degrees in return for their participation in specific disciplines or programs.
Other grants would pay organizations to create educational and training programs under the auspices of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Democrats say the programs are a necessary aspect of bringing another 36 million individuals into the U.S. healthcare system.
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The Association of American Medical Programs projects a shortage of between 124,000 and 159,000 physicians by 2025. Reform will aggravate that shortfall by an additional 25 percent, the association states.
"There is mounting evidence that a physician workforce shortage exists in primary care as well as in a number of other specialties," according to the association's report.
Opponents of healthcare reform warn that universal coverage under these circumstances can only lead to one thing: rationing of healthcare.
Fox News contributor and Newsmax pundit Dick Morris, for example, writes: "Because there will not be enough doctors, nurses, and medical equipment for the massive influx of patients under the Obama plan, there will be rationing, more draconian year after year."
Spending federal dollars to bolster training and education, and directing it toward fields in short supply, would seem one way to address that problem. But some medical experts see a darker intent behind the extensive, medical-education provisions in the reform bills that are now under consideration in the House and Senate.
Dr. Russell Blaylock, a board-certified neurosurgeon and author who is editor of the Blaylock Wellness Report published by Newsmax Media Inc., warns that reform proposals portend a "takeover of the entire medical-education system."
Blaylock told Newsmax he foresees the day when medical schools "will have to get federal approval, that they will appoint professors and set curriculum for the schools and they will direct residence and intern-training programs and set curriculum for these training programs."
He added, "Now, that means. . . federalization of medical education in the United States, which is the open door for federal medical license."
Among provisions in the House bill that suggest a bulked-up federal role in medical education:$34 billion over five years for a Public Health Investment Fund. Part of that money will go for grants to encourage medical education and service.Increasing education-loan repayment benefits to $50,000 annually, for medical professionals who join the National Health Service Corps. In return, participants agree to two years of service at sites serving low-income and uninsured populations. $1.3 billion over five years in "funding to support primary care training programs and to build academic capacity in primary care" and training of medical residents in community-based settings. $638 million over five years for new nurse-education programs. $283 million over five years to establishment of a public-health workforce scholarship program, to defray tuition expenses for those willing to serve in public health capacities, and for "various public health workforce programs." $1 billion in health-professions diversity grants. Over the next five years, these would provide scholarships for disadvantaged students, faculty fellowships, and loan repayments, as well as nursing workforce diversity grants, cultural-competency programs, and health-workforce assessments.
Perhaps of greater concern to those concerned about federal intrusion into medical education are sections of the bill that direct the Health and Human Services secretary to award grants to organizations that create academic programs.
The grants for training medical residents in community-based settings defray the costs of developing curricula, and other costs. This appears to place federal officials in the role of reviewing whether medical-education curricula are acceptable and qualify for federal outlays. Blaylock sees that as a possible first step toward federal accreditation of medical-education programs.
U.S. and Canadian medical schools generally are accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which is sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association.
Increased federal involvement in medical education indicates that proponents of reform "are lying," and intend to socialize the healthcare sector, Blaylock told Newsmax. Healthcare accounts for approximately one-sixth of the nation's economy.
"If you look at the history of the socialization of medicine in every country in the world it all started the same way," he said. "It's piecemeal, where there's a group of people who are not covered, and all we are trying to do is cover them. Well, then there is another group that needs to be covered, so now we cover them. And then you say, 'Well, if those two groups are getting it, why should we do it for everybody else.'"
Both the Association of American Medical Programs and the American Medical Association have generally endorsed healthcare reform, and continue to exert their influence over the legislation's final form.
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