Bill Would Aid Physician Reentry

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) is praising new legislation proposed in Congress that would make it easier for physicians to reenter the profession following extended periods of clinical inactivity.

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) is praising new legislation proposed in Congress that would make it easier for physicians to reenter the profession following extended periods of clinical inactivity.

The “Primary Care Physician Reentry Act,” HR 5498, would create a grant fund for medical schools, hospitals and nonprofit organizations to create or expand programs to help physicians reenter the field following an absence. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), the bill’s sponsor, said the money can also be used to assist with credentialing fees, loan repayments, and salaries. Physicians who benefit from the program would be dispatched to community health centers, Veterans Administration medical centers, or school-based health centers.

Sarbanes said he hopes the legislation helps offset the current and expected shortfall of primary care physicians.

“It will also offer mid-career physicians who took time out of the workforce to raise or care for their families, and retired or retiring physicians who want to serve their local communities, an opportunity to continue practicing medicine,” Sarbanes said, in a press release.

In a letter sent to Sarbanes last week, AAFP Chair Jeffrey J. Cain, MD, FAAFP, said it’s not uncommon for family physicians to take leaves of absence from their practices.

“Those physicians remain important contributors to the family physician workforce,” Cain said.

The process of physician reentry should be transparent, integrate current licensure and certification maintenance procedures, and focus on helping physicians deliver high-quality patient care, Cain wrote.

In addition to AAFP, the legislation also has the support of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, the Federation of State Medical Boards, the American Osteopathic Association, and the School-based Health Alliance.

“Today, educational programs for reentering physicians are too few, too geographically dispersed, and too expensive for many physicians interested in continuing their medical practice,” said James M. Perrin, MD, FAAP, president of the pediatrics group, in a press release.

Perrin said the bill would mark “important progress” toward combating the nation’s primary care physician shortage.