By Russell Smoldon

Last week the President signed S. 1557 – Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education Support Reauthorization Act (CHGME) into law after it was successfully passed in the House earlier this month. S. 1557 was passed by the Senate without amendment by unanimous consent in November of 2013.

CHGME was originally passed by Congress in 1999 because independent children’s hospitals, like Phoenix Children’s Hospital, were essentially left out of the Medicare GME, creating a gap in the training of pediatric providers. CHGME hospitals now train 49% of all pediatricians, up from 30% when the program was first enacted.

Children’s teaching hospitals care for the most severely ill children in any hospital setting. Having adequate funds to prepare doctors to care for pediatric patients allows children’s hospitals to better serve the children they care for.

The CHGME program is structured similarly to GME support through Medicare. CHGME hospitals receive support for both direct (DGME) and indirect (IME) medical education costs. Indirect costs are handled just as much by the children’s hospitals as their Medicare GME counterparts. The CHGME program provides GME to graduates of medical school, enhances research capabilities, and improves the care of vulnerable and underserved children at participating hospitals. Eligible hospitals apply each year to receive funding. Hospitals are eligible if they are a freestanding children’s teaching hospital with an approved GME, have a Medicare Provider Agreement, and are excluded from Medicare Inpatient Prospective Payment System.

Had S. 1557 failed to become law, the IME portion of CHGME payments would have been eliminated. Handling pediatric patients requires higher patient care costs for special services and unique training. Losing the IME portion of the CHGME would have had a major negative impact on children’s hospitals’ ability to meet pediatric workforce needs. Additionally, losing IME funding would have created a double standard, as Medicare GME recognizes these types of indirect costs that occur in adult hospitals, including the training of pediatric residents at that type of institution.

Today, we can celebrate S. 1557 and the continuation of programs that help train medical professionals focused on pediatric care. Phoenix Children’s Hospital is one of only fifty-four United States hospitals that participate in the CHGME program, making its success incredibly important to our community and our State. Children are not just small adults, and their unique physiology requires unique care. The commitment of our Congressional delegation along with the Administration will allow Phoenix Children’s Hospital to continue to train and prepare extraordinary physicians to care for children across the country. We wish to thank our delegation for their bipartisan effort on behalf of the Phoenix Children’s Hospital and their patients and their families.

If you have questions or would like more information about CHGME and how it affects Arizona, please feel free to contact me.