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Reps. Bera, Bucshon, Peters, Mullin Introduce Legislation to Help Ensure Access to General Surgeons

WASHINGTON, DC – Representatives Ami Bera, M.D. (D-CA), Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-IN), Scott Peters (D-CA), and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) today introduced the Ensuring Access to General Surgery Act. This bill would ensure that we have high-quality data on where general surgeons are in short supply around the country, particularly in rural and other under-served communities.

“We already know that our aging population will lead to physician shortages in the near future,” said Rep. Bera. “This bipartisan legislation will provide us with critical data so that we can target resources in the areas most in need of general surgeons. Every American should have access to high-quality health care, no matter where they live.”

“In light of growing evidence demonstrating a shortage of general surgeons, the American College of Surgeons believes that research is necessary to determine exactly what constitutes a surgical shortage area and where these areas exist,” said David Hoyt, MD, FACS, Executive Director of the American College of Surgeons. “Determining where patients lack access to surgical services will provide Health and Human Services with a valuable new tool for increasing access to the full spectrum of high quality health care services. Incentivizing general surgeons to locate or remain in communities with workforce shortages could become critical in guaranteeing all Medicare beneficiaries, regardless of geographic location, have access to quality surgical care.”

“As a practicing heart surgeon for nearly 15 years, I understand how access to general surgery services in rural areas in Indiana and around the nation can significantly improve health outcomes and save lives,” said Dr. Bucshon. “Right now, we are facing a shortage of general surgeons, which can prevent many of our citizens in those areas from receiving the care they need. This legislation will provide important data and insight on how we can best develop solutions to address this growing challenge both during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Americans should receive quality health care, no matter where they live in the country,” said Rep. Peters. “Unfortunately, many communities don’t have access to general surgery, preventing many patients from getting the care they need. The first step toward improving access to general surgery is knowing where these underserved populations are. Then, we can work to expand access to care and eventually lower costs.”

“Oklahoma ranks 47th in the nation for the rate of active general surgeons per patient” said Rep. Mullin. “We face a rural physician crisis if we do not get more doctors into the workforce. Identifying areas in our country where we have shortfalls is the first step to addressing this crisis. I am glad to work in a bipartisan way to highlight the lack of physicians in rural areas, address potential shortages, and enhance access to care in rural communities.”

The Ensuring Access to General Surgery Act of 2021 would direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a study on the designation of general surgery shortage areas. Such an area would be defined as an urban, suburban, or rural area of the United States with a population that is underserved by general surgeons.

Click here to view the full legislation.

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