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Putting Our Hearts and Dollars towards Specialty Pediatric Residency Training

During the month of February, hearts are on all our minds. American heart month is observed all month-long, and February 7-14 marks the Congenital Heart Defect awareness week. However, this is also a time to reflect on the fact that children with cardiac illnesses or congenital heart defects have fewer options to turn to for treatment than adults as children’s hospitals across the country continue to experience significant shortages in some pediatric specialties.

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While the causes for the shortage are myriad (limited supply of specialists, rising debt burden, noncompetitive salaries, changing lifestyles and a decline in physicians seeking specialty training), the fact remains that children and families bear the brunt of this issue.

Pediatric specialty shortages affect children and their family’s ability to receive timely, appropriate care. According to a Children’s Hospital Association report, due to physician shortages, clinic wait times in many children’s hospitals often far exceed the two-week benchmark. Furthermore, there is less incentive for medical students to choose pediatric specialties as a career. Specialty training generally takes two to three years longer than others, and the average Medicaid reimbursement is nearly 30 percent less than Medicare (one in three children are covered by Medicaid making it the largest payer of children’s health care services.).

One program that has been successful in funding pediatric residency training is the Children's Hospital Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) program. CHGME supports children’s health care by providing freestanding teaching children's hospitals with federal funding to train pediatricians and pediatric specialists. This program is vital to the future of pediatric care in this country as CHGME recipient hospitals, just one percent of all hospitals, train nearly half of all pediatricians, as many as 6,000 each year.

As we come together this month to celebrate those working to cure cardiac illnesses and congenital heart defects, it is also important to support a number of different provisions that promote the pediatric workforce. You can start by supporting our latest letter-writing campaign asking the White House to fund CHGME at higher levels than in recent years in its annual budget


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