New federal rule aims to bring more doctors to rural hospitals

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BOZEMAN, Mont. — A new federal rule may help recruit and retain more doctors-in-training at Montana's rural hospitals.

The new rule change will now allow Medicare to reimburse hospitals for physician residences at rural hospitals.

At Livingston Healthcare, they hope this will act as a recruiting tool.

Every year Livingston Healthcare sees five to eight medical students from urban cities come through their doors to do their residence. residency

University of Washington Medical School student Nina Tan says she feels lucky to be doing a medical rotation in Livingston.

"It gives us the exposure to a different setting than what we normally get trained in which is an academic, urban setting especially in a city like Seattle which is rapidly growing," said Tan.

"We get to see different patient populations, we get a sense of what life is like outside of an urban area both as a practicing physician but also just to live somewhere else," she added.

Statistics show 60 % of physicians in training end up staying where they complete their residency.

The new rule change by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will give Critical Access Hospitals across the country access to more students like Tan by reimbursing the costs of their training.

Montana is home to 48 Critical Access Hospitals which are facilities in rural areas with less than 25 inpatient beds like Livingston Healthcare.

On Tuesday, Billings Clinic -- Livingston Healthcare's sponsor -- praised Senator Jon Tester for his advocacy for this rule change to bring more doctors to rural Montana.

"I think that there are some of my colleagues who grew up in rural areas and went into medical school or residencies knowing that they wanted to be a rural doctor -- whereas for most of us residencies and rotations like these give us the opportunity to try it out and see if it's something that would suit us," said Tan.

Even though Tan is still not sure whether she'll end up staying in Montana, Livingston Healthcare says their services improve because of residents like her -- however long they stay.

The new rule goes into effect October 1st.

Billings Clinic will get reimbursed for the residents it sends to Livingston Healthcare.


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