By William K. Alcorn
Akron Children’s Hospital main campus is expected to receive more than $3 million through the federal Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education program, which is included in the federal omnibus spending package recently signed into law.
Akron Children’s is among six of Ohio’s children’s hospitals, and 58 children’s hospitals nationwide, that benefit through CHGME, which is funded at $315 million next year, an increase over the previous $300 million annual funding level, provided the law is reauthorized. It is due to expire Sept. 30.
“This vital program helps train the next generation of pediatricians,” said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who introduced the bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and others.
Funding was increased to $315 million for fiscal year 2018 in the omnibus spending bill recently passed. Separate House and Senate bills were introduced on March 22 to reauthorize the CHGME program for an additional five years.
“Caring for our nation’s children demands specialized pediatric training,” Brown said in a news release.
“For nearly 20 years, CHGME has helped train pediatricians and other professionals to treat our children. This reauthorization and funding boost will help Ohio’s children’s hospitals that rely on these resources ensure that all of our children have a healthy start in life,” Brown said.
The program had its genesis in a mid-1990’s meeting between Brown, who was then serving in the U.S. House, and Bill Considine, Akron Children’s chief executive officer, and other hospital’s leaders, to discuss the need for a federal funding source to support training of future pediatricians.
The Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education was Considine’s idea, and Brown was instrumental in getting it passed into law 1999, said Charlie Solley, Akron Children’s director of government relations.
The basic structure is that students graduate from medical school and then participate in residency programs where they receive additional training from hospital personnel, Solley said.
In 1999, unlike residency programs at hospitals for adults, such as the Cleveland Clinic, which receive funding for residency-training programs through Medicare, children’s hospitals had little or no federal funding for residency training.
For example, Akron Children’s, which has a Mahoning Valley campus on Market Street in Boardman, had a few adult patients mostly because of its burn unit at its main Akron campus.
As a result, it received little Medicare funding and no federal dollars for its pediatrician-residency program.
“That’s the dynamic that existed when Brown made his visit that got the ball rolling,” Solley said.
Congress created the CHGME program in 1999 and started in 2000 with a $40 million appropriation.
The federal dollars are used to help children’s hospitals recoup some of the money spent on residency programs.
“The good news is that the omnibus spending bill increased the appropriation. The challenge is that the enabling legislation expires Sept. 30 if it is not reauthorized,” Solley said.
“The Ohio’s Children’s Hospital Association [OCHA] and its members applaud the commitment by Congress to support the CHGME program,” said Nick Lashutka, president and chief executive officer of OCHA.
“Because Ohio’s children’s hospitals play a critical role in helping to shape, educate and guide future pediatricians in our hospital training programs, we are appreciative that Congress shares our goal of helping to reduce both general and pediatric specialty shortages across the country,” Lashutka added.
He applauded Brown for consistently voting to reauthorize the program.
Besides Portman, co-sponsors of the legislation were Pat Roberts R-Kan.; Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; John Cornyn, R-Texas; Bob Casey, D-Pa.; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, D-Conn; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; and David Perdue, R-Ga.