The Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) is disappointed with President Trump’s fiscal year 2021 (FY21) budget proposal, which proposes removal of key funding towards federal student financial aid, Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and graduate medical education (GME), all of which are critical lifelines to osteopathic medical students and patient health nationwide.
The President’s FY21 budget proposes a decrease of $484 million to health professions education training programs and proposes eliminating critical programs such as Area Health Education Centers. With the impending physician shortage that will disproportionately affect lower socioeconomic communities, cuts to grants that fund primary care, public health, and preventative medicine training will be detrimental to healthcare in these areas.
Under the proposed budget, The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program would be eliminated and the Grad PLUS Loan Program would be capped at $50,000 annually, with an aggregate limit of $100,000. Without PSLF, there would be a significant decrease in patient access to physicians, especially in primary care fields. This would disproportionately affect rural and underserved areas. Capping Grad PLUS would decrease access to medical education for students from low income and minority backgrounds and therefore make our physician workforce less diverse in the long term. Not only do these students add to the diversity of medicine, but they also tend to practice in underserved communities.
At SOMA, we continuously strive to reach out to those in rural and underserved areas. We continuously discuss student debt, as its weight is felt all throughout the osteopathic medical community. We continuously pass resolutions in our House of Delegates that support the security of many of these programs, for the betterment of healthcare as a whole. As the appropriations process begins for FY21, we call on Congress to renounce these cuts and work to enhance PSLF, GME, and student financial aid so that our future physicians can best serve patients. Now is not the time to cut medical education. We have to prepare for the future so that all patients can receive quality care, regardless of where they live.
The Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) is the largest osteopathic medical student organization in the United States, representing nearly 15,000 future physicians.
These proposed changes are indeed egregious, and fly in the face of all that medicine, in particular the DO philosophy, stands for. Humankind is one, and equal access to opportunities is a right, not a privilege reserved for a few. I am glad the osteopathic profession is so committed to an equitable resolution.