WASHINGTON -- The American Medical Association and representatives of the nation's medical schools said yesterday that the United States is training far too many doctors and that the number should be cut by at least 20 percent.
"The United States is on the verge of a serious oversupply of physicians," the AMA and five other medical groups said in a joint statement. "The current rate of physician supply -- the number of physicians entering the work force each year -- is clearly excessive."
The groups, representing a large segment of the medical establishment, proposed limits on the number of doctors who become residents each year.
The number of medical residents, now 25,000, should be much lower, the groups said. While they did not endorse a specific number, they suggested that 18,700 might be appropriate.
In the statement, the groups acknowledged that many inner-city neighborhoods and rural areas had too few doctors. But they said this would not be helped by an increase in the overall supply of doctors.
The groups said the federal government should address that problem by providing financial incentives for medical schools to train doctors in inner cities and rural areas, and should encourage new doctors to practice in those places.
And to achieve the goal of reducing the overall number of residents, they said, the federal government should limit the amount it spends on training doctors. Medicare, the federal health-insurance program for the elderly and disabled, subsidizes such training through special payments of more than $7 billion a year to teaching hospitals.
The surplus of doctors is particularly large in New York state, which has 15 percent of the nation's medical residents but only 7 percent of the nation's population. Federal officials announced an experimental program last week under which 41 of New York's teaching hospitals will be paid to train fewer doctors.
Cohen said medical schools have been producing the same number of doctors, 17,000 a year, for more than a decade. But, he said, there has been "explosive growth in the number of entry-level positions for residents." About 8,000 of the 25,000 positions are filled by graduates of medical schools outside the United States.
American medical schools "are already turning out an ample supply of doctors for the country's needs," but the nation imports 8,000 graduates of foreign medical schools, Cohen said.
Some graduates of foreign medical schools are U.S. citizens, but most are citizens of India, Pakistan or the Philippines.
Cohen said federal money should "no longer be used to support the training of foreign nationals."
Pub Date: 3/01/97