The residency programs that train Texas family physicians will take a big hit under the education budget agreement lawmakers unveiled today. 

In addition to across-the-board cuts to formula funding, special programs to attract family practice residents saw even bigger trims. Under cuts to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, state funding for the family practice residency program will drop more than 70 percent, from $21.2 million in the current biennium to $5.6 million in 2012-13 — a cut of roughly $10,000 per student. The primary care residency program will be zeroed out entirely. These cuts come on top of 10 percent formula funding cuts for medical schools, and Medicaid rate cuts at the hospitals that train these med students — but they make up just a fraction of state funding for graduate medical education.  

"With the cuts in all the other funding streams, the question becomes how, or if, [residency programs] can make up those dollars," said Tom Banning, chief executive of the Texas Academy of Family Physicians. "We've already seen two family medicine programs close over the last four years. We will have fewer physicians caring for Texas patients at a time we need to be growing that physician base."

Meanwhile, the physician education loan repayment program, which pays the medical school bills of new doctors who agree to practice in underserved communities, is losing 76 percent of its funding — a $17 million hit over the next two years. 

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"There is going to be a fierce competition for physician services nationally over the next decade," Banning said, referencing the aging baby boomer population, as well as Texas' explosive growth. "We just took several steps backward by shrinking this program." 

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