RD75 - Report on the Access to and Availability of Geriatricians

Executive Summary:

House Joint Resolution 135 of the 2004 General Assembly Session would have required a study of the access to and the availability of geriatricians. Although HJR 135 was tabled in the House Rules Committee, Delegate Harvey Morgan requested that Joint Commission on Health Care (JCHC) staff study this issue and report on findings and recommendations to the Commission.

Geriatricians are physicians who have expertise in age-related issues or gerontology, the study of the aging process. There is a national shortage of geriatricians in the United States, which is projected to worsen as baby boomers age. Financial disincentives pose the greatest barrier to entry into the field of geriatrics. Low Medicare reimbursement rates are considered to be a major reason that relatively few physicians choose to specialize in geriatrics. Consequently, many believe federal reforms are needed, including modifying Medicare’s payment system and the payment policy for federal training programs.

Virginia began funding the Virginia Geriatric Education Center, after Congress discontinued funding such centers in 2005. The Center and the Geriatric Academic Career Awards Program were provided a total of $375,000 GFs and $375,000 NGFs for each year of the 2006-2008 biennium. The funding is designed to “continue geriatric training and education programs across Virginia for a wide range of health-related professionals and service providers."

In response to the 2006 JCHC study, the following legislative options were adopted by the Commission:
Request by letter from the Chairman that the Virginia Geriatric Education Center report to the Commission prior to the 2008 Session on its recommendations for improving access to and availability of geriatricians.

Request by letter from the Chairman that the Health Workforce Advisory Committee in its deliberations consider the issues of the access to and availability of geriatricians in the context of future health workforce shortages associated with the aging of Virginia’s population.

On behalf of the Joint Commission and staff, I would like to thank all the individuals and organizations who assisted in this study effort.

Kim Snead
Executive Director
March 2007