One of the many components of the Affordable Care Act that made access to quality care better was one designed to help Republican territory—rural areas—as well as other, underserved urban areas. It's providing training—and bringing providers—to places that haven't had primary care providers.
Under the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program, which is part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government dispenses grants to community health centers to train medical residents. The goal of the program is to address the shortage of primary care physicians in rural and poor urban areas.
But under current law, the federal government will stop funding the program, which serves nearly 750 primary care residents in 27 states and Washington, D.C., at the end of September. Without congressional action, it might be shut down.
“The program is absolutely doing what it is designed to do, which is to put doctors in underserved areas like ours,” said Darrick Nelson, the director of Hidalgo Medical Services’ teaching health center program, which is training six residents in Lordsburg, New Mexico.
The teaching health centers have received bipartisan support in the past. But supporters worry that because the program is new, relatively small, and not as well-known as other federally funded doctor training programs, it might fall through the federal budgetary cracks.
“The greatest threat to the teaching health centers is the dysfunction in Washington,” said Dan Hawkins, a vice president at the National Association of Community Health Centers, a research and advocacy group.
It doesn't have a big constituency yet and has been pretty easily ignored by Congress, including those representatives of areas getting help. It might just be that Republicans are willing to cut care to their own voters if it means "those" people in underserved cities also get cut off. Or it's just that their anti-Obamacare obsessions blinds them to the very real good the law has done.
This provision is doing good, in an easily quantifiable way. According to the American Association of Teaching Health Centers, "55 percent of teaching health center graduates practice in underserved areas, compared to 26 percent of those who graduate from hospital-based residencies." That's 750 primary-care doctors around the country who are getting a real education in providing care to a population that's needed it most and learning how to deal with the kinds of chronic illnesses that are so prevalent in underserved areas. And in the grand scheme of things federal budget-wise, it's cheap—$46 million a year. But it's too much for Republicans who care a lot more about political points than the people they represent.