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Everyone agrees that Indiana must do more to improve public health. For years, policy experts have tied the state’s poor rankings in obesity, smoking and infant mortality directly to Indiana’s lack of public health funding. In other words, you get what you pay for. And the COVID-19 pandemic has proven this point.

One way to improve the health of the Hoosier State is to increase the number of healthcare professionals trusted most by Hoosiers, whose rigorous education and training have prepared them best to meet the needs of our population.

Simply put — Indiana needs more physicians.

Since the creation of the Graduate Medical Education (GME) Board in 2015 by the Indiana General Assembly, more than 70 new resident physicians and 220 residency slots have been created, many that serve rural and underserved areas. That adds up to an additional 126,000 direct primary care hours for patients.

While the vast majority of resident physicians who train in Indiana stay in Indiana — we lose 133 graduating medical students to other states each year due to a shortage of in-state residency programs.

And that’s a loss for our communities as well. Every resident physician who becomes a primary care physician within an underserved area generates on average a $3.6 million economic impact on the region. And their practice within the community creates an additional 6 to 7 jobs.

Statewide, the economic impact of current and new resident physicians from Indiana medical resident programs is expected to reach $332 million by 2025. But only if such funding is maintained during the 2021 legislative session.

The State’s efforts are working and the return on investment is tremendous. We greatly appreciate the House of Representatives for recognizing the importance of physicians to Hoosier health by maintaining GME funding at its current level in the amended budget. Let us not lose momentum now — especially during a pandemic.

That is why the Indiana Physician Coalition calls on legislators to increase or maintain the $8 million biennial appropriation to the GME Board. We must add to the highly trained physician workforce that is needed to provide patients with greater access to care, and as a result, a better quality of life.

Steve Cooke, Indianapolis, on behalf of members of the Indiana Physician Coalition

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