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SENATE PASSES SB 143 TO EXPAND PRIMARY CARE ACCESS
AUSTIN —The Texas Senate today unanimously passed SB 143 by Texas State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, to reduce the shortage of health care workers in the state and increase access to primary care.
"The critical shortages we face in our health care work force are not going away. As our population continues to grow, we have to graduate and train more health care professionals in order to meet the health care needs of our citizens," said Senator Nelson. "This bill will improve access to qualified physicians for patients in our government-sponsored programs - and for all Texans."
Currently, Texas has approximately 18,000 primary care physicians to serve 25 million residents, with more than 100 counties designated as full primary care health professional shortage areas. Only 31 percent of Texas physicians accept all new Medicaid patients, an all-time low. In addition, a 2012 report by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board shows that Texas lacks enough residency positions for all of our state's medical school graduates. The report estimates that by 2016, at least 180 medical school graduates - whose education costs the state at least $168,000 per student - will have to leave the state for their first year of residency training and will likely never return.
SB 143 grows the physician workforce and encourages greater participation in state-operated health programs by:
- Establishing the Resident Physician Expansion Grant Program, a competitive grant program to create new residency positions;
- Establishing the Graduate Medical Education Planning Grant Program to encourage the development of residency programs in hospitals that have never had one;
- Establishing incentives for medical schools that implement strategies to encourage primary care and demonstrate an increase in the number of primary care physicians in Texas; and
- Qualifying physicians who treat Medicaid and Texas Women's Health Program patients for the Physician Education Loan Repayment Program.
SB 1 includes funding for the initiatives laid out in SB 143, including $10 million for the Resident Physician Expansion Grant Program, $1.5 million for the Graduate Medical Education Planning Grant Program, and $33.8 million for the Physician Education Loan Repayment Program. It now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
SENATOR JANE NELSON represents District 12, including portions of Tarrant and Denton Counties. She is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services.