Washington DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that his bill to protect funding for children’s hospitals in Pennsylvania and across the country has passed through the Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Casey’s bill, The Children’s Hospital GME Support Reauthorization Act of 2013, would reauthorize this program that provides funding for graduate medical residents in children’s hospitals. The program’s authorization had lapsed and securing a reauthorization will help lock in funds for these children’s hospitals. In fiscal year 2011, Pennsylvania children’s hospitals in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh received over $32 million in funds.
“Passing this legislation through committee reconfirms our commitment to provide funding to train residents in children’s hospitals,” Senator Casey said. “Children’s hospitals in Pennsylvania have had a significant impact on the lives of sick children. Children are not little adults and this is an investment that pays dividends for children and families. I’m hopeful that we can get this bill through the full Senate, the House and on the President’s desk.”
The Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) program provides freestanding children’s hospitals with federal graduate medical education (GME) support similar to the funding that other teaching hospitals receive through Medicare. The program was first enacted by Congress in 1999 with bipartisan support, and has been reauthorized twice since then, each time again with broad bipartisan support. The program provides funding to about 55 freestanding children’s hospitals in 30 states to support the training of pediatricians and other residents.
The program has a proven track record of success and represents a high-value investment in children’s health care. Prior to the enactment of CHGME in late 1999, the number of residents in children's hospital residency programs had declined over 13 percent, according to the American Board of Pediatrics. Since the enactment of CHGME, children’s hospitals have reversed this trend, increasing their training slots by 45 percent. Today, though they represent 1 percent of all hospitals, freestanding children’s hospitals train over 45 percent of general pediatricians, 51 percent of all pediatric specialists and the majority of pediatric researchers.
The Children’s Hospital GME Support Reauthorization Act of 2013 will reauthorize the program for five years at $300 million a year. The legislation also makes important changes to the program by giving the Secretary authority to include in the program a small number of freestanding children’s hospitals who have been ineligible to participate in the past for technical reasons. First, the bill allows the Secretary to use a portion of the funds appropriated over $245 million for these children’s hospitals that train pediatric providers and meet the same general qualifications as existing participants but currently do not qualify for Medicare GME or CHGME. The amount of this pool in a given year would be 25% of enacted CHGME funding over $245 million, up to a maximum of $7 million, and hospitals would have to undergo a normal application process.