It’s been clear from the start that SB 1354 – the most important access to care bills this year- would do a great deal both in the short-term by boosting the primary care loan repayment program and really enhance graduate medical education residencies over the coming years (important because where a practitioner does her or his residency greatly influences where they ultimately practice).  Arizona’s primary care physician shortage is one of the worst in the nation (meeting only 42% of the state’s needs).

The public health merit of a bill is often not enough to carry the day – especially when a financial appropriation is involved- because the return on investment matters too.  Fortunately, the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association and the Arizona Rural Health Association commissioned a study to measure how SB 1364 would affect the economy and patient access to care.

The result of the independent economic impact study found that the SB 1354 investments would have a “significant positive economic impact” to the state and expanded patient access to care over the next ten years.

The report found that the bill would enable hospitals across the state to increase the number of post-graduate physician residents they train and found that increasing the number of physician residents at three rural hospitals alone would result in 845 new high- paying jobs and $911 million in economic output over ten years.  Additionally, the bill lessens the issue of physicians leaving Arizona after graduation because they are unable to secure the limited amount of in-state residency positions.

Almost 75% of medical students who finish post-graduate training in Arizona stay in Arizona. This means state funding for physician residencies will move the needle on the state’s physician shortage and be a game-changer for rural communities.

The bill sailed through the Senate but stalled in the House – as the Rules Committee never heard the Bill (and that committee is no longer meeting).  But- portions of the bill or even the whole bill could be included in the final budget as what’s called a Budget Reconciliation Bill or BRB.