Bipartisan Miller bill funds physician residency programs in nation’s rural areas

U.S. Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV) on April 2 unveiled a bipartisan bill to address America’s ongoing shortage of physicians, particularly in rural areas.

“Access to health care in rural areas is not an option,” Rep. Miller said, “it’s a necessity.” 

The congresswoman cosponsored the Rural Residency Planning and Development Act of 2024, H.R. 7855, alongside bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Yadira Caraveo (D-CO).

If enacted, H.R. 7855 would authorize the Rural Residency Planning and Development Program, which provides grants to develop newly accredited, sustainable rural residency programs in family medicine, internal medicine, public health, general preventive medicine, psychiatry, general surgery, and obstetrics/gynecology. 

Housed under the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the overall goal of the program is to support expansion of the physician workforce in rural communities, where HRSA says only 2 percent of training occurs.

To tackle this shortage, H.R. 7855 would authorize $12.7 million for each of fiscal years 2025 through 2029 to make funding awards that support start-up costs for establishing new rural residency programs, according to the text of the bill.

“HRSA’s Rural Residency Planning and Development Program is vital to ensure the next generation of rural physicians are being appropriately trained to care for patients and should be codified by Congress,” said Rep. Miller. “I have been so thrilled to see multiple rural residency programs come to life in West Virginia, including at the Marshall Community Health Consortium in Huntington, and I understand firsthand the impact these programs have on our community.”

H.R. 7855, she added, “will provide certainty for these programs and ensure that we are continuing to invest in our rural healthcare workforce.”

Rep. Caraveo said the nation must create strong rural medical residency programs to build a pipeline of rural physicians.

“I’m proud to work in a bipartisan fashion with Rep. Miller to act on this important issue,” said Rep. Caraveo, “and I’m grateful to Sen. Tina Smith [D-MN] for her work to advance similar legislation in the Senate.”

The bill has been endorsed by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the National Rural Health Association.