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House and Senate budgets fund additonal residency slots for docs but target far less than what Scott wants

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While they are far apart on Medicaid funding, both the House and Senate budgets have money enough to fund more residency slots to train physicians to help abate a looming shortfall in specialties such as psychiatry, general surgery, thoracic surgery and rheumatology.

The House budget appropriates nearly $3.8 million in total funds for graduate medical education. The Senate budget is nearly $1.27 million in total funds for training. Additionally, the Senate budget establishes a new graduate medical education or GME start-up program that would give hospitals a one-time $100,000 bonus for each new residency slot it develops in a physician field where a shortage has been identified.

The Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida funded a study that showed there will be a shortfall of about 3,700 physician specialists by the year 2025, and rural areas will be the hardest hit. To fend off the problem the hospital association and the Teaching Hospital Council of Florida requested that the Legislature earmark $20 million to help fund graduate medical education.

Although the budgets fall far short of what was requested, Chairman of the Teaching Hospital Council of Florida and President and Chief Executive Officer of Mount Sinai Medical Center Steven Sonenreich said the groups are encouraged by the early iterations of the spending proposals.

“This is a positive step toward addressing the state’s projected physician shortage in the next decade and we thank the Senate and House leadership, and their healthcare appropriations chairmen, for giving the issue the attention it deserves,’’ he said in a press release.

Gov Rick Scott proposed increasing graduate medical education spending by $7.5 million in his proposed budget for the 2015-16 year.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees on Wednesday passed their respective spending plans though they must still be approved by both full chambers. Then the House and Senate will appoint conferees who will be charged with ironing out the differences. The House budget is $76.2 billion and the Senate budget is $80.4 billion.

There are two major differences in the health and human services budgets: The Senate includes $2.8 billion in Medicaid expansion as well as $2.2 billion for supplemental payments called Low Income Pool. The House has not included LIP money because the current authority for LIP expires at the end of the current fiscal year. Additionally, the House had resisted expanding Medicaid and hasn’t included the money that would be available to Florida if the program was expanded to include those with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level as envisioned by the federal health care law, or Obamacare.

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