Topeka Lawrence legislators are critical about a bill introduced this week that would penalize the Kansas University Medical Center unless more students enter family practice.
The bill is intended to encourage officials at KUMC to steer more students into family practice, rather than other specialities. Kansas has a shortage of doctors in family practice, particularly in rural areas.
The bill was drafted by the Joint Committee on Health Care Decisions for the 1990s.
Under the measure, funding for the medical center, which is in Kansas City, Kan., would be cut if 5 percent of the students do not enter its family practice training program.
"I THINK it's an attention-getting device, to call attention to the problem," said Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence.
Winter said he didn't think the bill's sponsor, Rep. Fred Gatlin, R-Atwood, was going about the problem correctly.
"He's directed his frustration at the wrong place," Winter said. "I just don't think it (the bill) is going anywhere."
Rep. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, said the Legislature should look at reasons why more medical students aren't going into family practice in rural areas.
One reason is the high medical malpractice premiums that primary care physicians must pay, Praeger said. Another is physicians can't make enough money in rural areas to justify paying those high premiums, she said. Family physicians also must work much harder in rural areas, she said.
"IF THEY are by themselves, it's tough," she said. "They are on call virtually 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
Praeger said she didn't think penalizing the medical center for students' decisions will solve the problem.
"I think the carrot works better than the stick approach," she said. "I think this is rather extreme and we need to look at the problems and attack the problem."
Rep. Betty Jo Charlton, D-Lawrence, agreed the bill takes the wrong approach. Past bills the Legislature drafted to encourage physicans to practice in rural areas were not punitive, she said.
"This is an entirely different approach, and to me it comes under the definition of the Legislature intervening in internal affairs," she said. "The university knows how many physcians are practicing where in the state, and I just think it should be left up to the med center to ask for incentives rather than having to act under threats."