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MERC cuts threaten medical training

Minnesota hospitals and clinics may be forced to scale back their training programs because of 2011 state legislation that severely reduces funding to Medical education and research Costs (MERC). The cuts adversely affect University of Minnesota Medical School students and residents, partner hospitals, and, ultimately, access to health care in Minnesota.

The state program compensates hospitals, clinics, and other health care providers for a portion of the costs of clinical training for health professional students and residents.

Now, budget cuts threaten to dismantle MERC and the education it funds. Facing a budget deficit in 2011, the legislature cut MERCfunding for hospitals and clinics by more than 50 percent to $31.5 million, and eliminated direct payments ($5.35 million in 2010) to the University and University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.

These cuts will have real consequences. Partner hospitals have told the University that they will soon have to reduce the number of students and residents they train. Meanwhile, Minnesota is facing a health professional shortage as the need for care grows with our aging population. Nationwide, we will need nearly 63,000 more physicians in 2015 and twice that in 2025—making recruiting from elsewhere difficult and costly.

Students and health care providers are not the only ones affected; families across the state depend on access to quality health care, and access to quality health care is critical to job and business growth in our communities.

The Minnesota legislature is now in session. The University, along with its partner hospitals, is urging the legislature to adopt Gov. Mark Dayton’s recommendation to restore MERC to 2011 funding levels.

In addition, the University is requesting that its direct appropriation, used to fund training at community health and dental clinics in the Twin Cities, Willmar, and Hibbing, also be restored.

You can help. Please contact your legislators and urge them to restore MERC funding. A strong Minnesota depends on healthy communities, which, in turn, depend on well-trained health care providers. About two-thirds of doctors who train in Minnesota stay and practice here.

Contact your legislators

Contact the HOUSE.

Contact the SENATE.

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