February 2010 Legislative Update
February 2010 Legislative Update
by Kim Wirthlin, VP Government Relations
Utah's Physician Workforce
Funding for medical education at the School of Medicine was reduced by 39% in FY 2009. The large reduction in funding was due to the loss of $10 million in Federal funds that the state relied on to provide nearly 30% of its support for medical education. In addition, the state reduced its support of higher education by 9.5% to address the state's serious budget deficit.
The School of Medicine cut department budgets, central expenses, raised tuition and fees by 15% and moved physician-faculty members' full time equivalency from teaching to patient care activities to address part of the 39% cut. However, it was impossible to absorb such a significant through budget reductions and tuition increases without affecting the quality of the medical program and putting the School of Medicine's accreditation at risk. As a result, the School of Medicine made the difficult but necessary decision to reduce its class size by 20 students.
Physician Shortage: A Serious Health Care Concern for Utah Citizens
The physician shortage is a serious health care concern for the country and the state.
According to the American Medical Association only three states have fewer physicians per capita than Utah.
The country has a shortage of physicians that is expected to worsen as the number of people over age 65 (who use more than twice the health care of younger adults) doubles.
If insurance coverage and access are expanded through health care reform, the shortage will be intensified by the influx of the newly insured.
Even with changes to the health care delivery system and improved prevention, the U.S. will face a shortage of more than 125,000 physicians in the next 15 years. The U.S. trains only 27,000 new doctors a year.
The Association of American Medical Colleges has called for a 30% increase in medical school enrollment, which would produce 5,000 additional doctors each year.
Physician workforce is determined by how many physicians there are per 100,000 population. The national average is 235 physicians/100,000 population; the Mountain Region has 191 physicians/100,000 population. Utah has only 165 physicians/100,000.
The physician workforce shortage in Utah is made worse by the number of physicians retiring and the reduction in work hours prior to retirement.
Utah has an annual need of 270 physicians a year to maintain the current supply of physicians.
Utah has always been a net-importer of physicians.While many of Utah's physicians received a portion of their training at the School of Medicine, the state is not able to train the physicians it needs to meet health care demand. As the physician shortage worsens across the country, Utah will have an extremely difficult time recruiting physicians to practice in the state.
Increasing Utah's Cigarette Tax Reduces Smoking, Saves Lives, and Provides A Revenue Stream to Restore the School of Medicine Class Size to 102 Students
Utah has the 36th lowest cigarette tax in the country at $ .695 per pack.
The evidence in state after state is clear:increasing the cigarette tax is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, especially among kids.
Every state that has increased its cigarette tax has received more revenue than it would have collected absent a rate increase, even while reducing smoking.
There is strong public support for a cigarette tax increase to reduce youth smoking and improve the health of the population. A 2007 survey found that 81% of Utah voters favor a cigarette tax increase.
More than $54 million of additional reliable and consistent annual state revenues will result from an increase in the cigarette tax of $1.305 per pack and an equivalent increase in the tax on other tobacco products.
$10 million is needed to replace the lost Federal funding for medical education and restore the medical school class size to 102 students.