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The United States Government Weeds Out Doctors

An agency within the Department of Health and Human Services intends to pay New York hospitals not to train any more new doctors. Officials claim they want to do away with a surplus of doctors throughout the nation and save money.

  • After years of federal subsidies to increase the number of doctors, the new Medicare Graduate Medical Education Demonstration Project will pay $400 million to 41 New York hospitals to discourage them from training physicians.

  • The program is to run for six years.

  • Health care experts across the country were reportedly stunned by the plan.

  • Some observers are likening it to federal agricultural programs which pay farmers for not planting crops, and one called it "treating health care like a commodity."

The plan was devised by officials of the Greater New York Hospital Association, a powerful lobbying group, and approved by the Health Care Financing Administration -- the agency that disperses Medicare funds.

  • The federal government picks up a considerable portion of the bill for doctor training through Medicare -- which has been paying hospitals up to about $100,000 a year for each resident trained.

  • The New York hospitals would reduce the number of doctors they train by 20 percent to 25 percent over the next six years -- resulting in 2,000 fewer residents.

Hospital executives around the nation expressed concern that the government was playing favorites with New York hospitals because of their political connections. The president of the Tampa (Fla.) General Hospital was quoted as saying, "How can we get in on it?"

Source: Elisabeth Rosenthal, "U. S. to Pay New York Hospitals Not to Train Doctors, Easing Glut," New York Times, February 18, 1997.

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