Ohio looking toward primary care physician training

MARIETTA – Attempting to steer more medical students toward careers that will fill a projected growing gap in primary care physicians, Ohio Gov. John Kasich plans to focus graduate medical education funding in the state budget on training for primary care services.

“Shortages in primary care, as well as shortages in mental health and dental care, have existed for some time in Ohio, but we’re looking at more shortages in this state and others, particularly now that we’re talking about expanding insurance coverage (under the new national health care law),” said Coleen Schwartz, administrator of the Ohio Department of Health’s Primary Care Office in Columbus.

The lack of primary care physicians across the country is expected to grow over the next year as millions of newly-insured Americans obtain coverage under the health care law that is slated for full implementation Jan. 1, 2014.

Under Kasich’s budget proposal, medical schools would receive about $200 million over the state’s two-year budget period that begins in July. The state would then work with medical deans on a plan to prioritize training in primary care services, with the idea that dollars would be more focused in that area in the 2015 budget year.

“The idea would be for chancellors to come up with a plan to encourage students to pursue primary care studies,” Ohio Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, said.

He said qualified state medical schools who don’t develop a plan could risk losing some of their annual funding allocations from the state budget.

“It’s an effort to promote primary care as a viable program in all of the state’s medical schools,” Thompson said.

The budget proposal would also support expansion of the patient-centered medical home (PCMH) model of care across the state, according to a release from Kasich’s press office.

“A strong primary care workforce is a critical element of the PCMH model and, given the current shortage, it is imperative to educate and retain a workforce to provide advanced primary health care services,” the release stated.

Ohio’s budget was approved by the legislature this week but still has to be signed by Kasich, expected to happen this weekend.

Jennifer Carlson, assistant vice president at The Ohio State University Medical Center James Cancer Hospital & Solove Research Institute, said Thursday the governor’s budget proposal is a work in progress.

“It’s simply a directive at this point,” she said. “We’ll be sitting down with the governor to work it out, but the current proposal is to reinvest and refocus our budgeted $200 million on primary care.”