Hundreds of AMA medical students and residents lobby Congress on medical student debt, uninsured and Medicare

American Medical Association
http://www.ama-assn.org

WASHINGTON– Nearly 300 medical student, resident and fellow members of the American Medical Association (AMA) from across the nation are storming Capitol Hill today urging Congress to protect access to care for America’s patients. Throughout the day, the students, residents and fellows will visit House and Senate offices asking Congress to alleviate medical student debt, adopt effective reforms to cover the uninsured and stop Medicare payment cuts to preserve seniors’ access to health care.

“Congress has the power to help ensure that there are enough physicians for our aging population by easing the enormous debt burden medical students shoulder after medical school, said AMA Board Member Chris DeRienzo, fourth year medical student at Duke University. “Today, the average medical student graduates from medical school with a debt of nearly $140,000. This high debt burden often plays a role in students’ career choices, forcing many away from primary care specialties or from practicing in underserved areas.

“We’re asking Congress to permanently reinstate the medical student loan deferment program, known as the ’20/220 pathway,’ so that residents can defer payment on their loans for up to three years during residency training based on economic hardship, said AMA Board Member Samantha Rosman, MD. “We’re also urging them to expand this program to ease the debt burden for even more residents and fellows. And we’re calling on Congress to reauthorize the higher education act, which contains important provisions for medical students who rely on federal loans. We must find a way to ease some of this debt burden so that we increase the number of minority physicians and increase the ability of physicians to go on to serve the underserved.

“The AMA is committed to working with Congress on a solution to provide access to affordable health care for the 47 million Americans who are uninsured, said Mr. DeRienzo. “Physicians see firsthand the devastating effect of living without health insurance. Uninsured patients live sicker and die younger because they often put off medical care until their health problems have reached crisis proportions.

“Covering the uninsured is a top priority for the AMA, and we are sharing our proposal with Congress, said Dr. Rosman. “Under the AMA proposal, those who need it most receive financial assistance to purchase health insurance so that everyone can access the medical care they need to stay healthy and receive care when they are sick. It gives individuals choices so they can select the coverage that works best for themselves and their families, and it promotes fair rules that include protections for high-risk patients. We are confident that now is the time Congress and our next president can reform our health care system to provide coverage and access to care for all Americans.

“The AMA’s medical student, resident and fellow members are urging Congress to protect seniors’ access to health care by stopping Medicare payment cuts that will start this July, said Dr. Rosman. “Sixty percent of physicians say the cuts will force them to limit the number of new Medicare patients they can treat. With the baby boomers just a few years away from aging into Medicare, Congress needs to stop the cuts now to preserve access to medical care for our aging population.”

AMA medical students, residents and fellows are in Washington, DC as part of the AMA’s National Advocacy Conference, which brings nearly 1,000 physicians, residents and medical students to Washington to advocate for health care reforms for patients and the physicians who care for them. To voice concern over upcoming Medicare payment cuts, the AMA also will host a Medicare rally — a house call on Congress — on Capitol Hill Wednesday to call for Congressional action to stop the cuts and protect seniors’ access to care.

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