Law Expands Safety Net Program to Include Doctors in Training
(TRENTON) – Legislation Assemblyman Joseph Egan sponsored to make medical interns in New Jersey eligible for unemployment benefits was recently signed into law.
Generally, after completing four years of medical school, doctors in training must complete a residency, the first year of which is known as the internship year. During his or her internship year, a recent graduate practices medicine under the supervision of more experienced medical professionals. While interns do receive a salary, they are ineligible for unemployment benefits if they are terminated from an internship in New Jersey.
“If a medical intern has student loan debt in the six-figure range and suddenly loses employment during his or her first post-graduate year, it can be a significant obstacle to financial stability,” said Egan (D-Middlesex/Somerset).
“Allowing interns to receive unemployment in the event of their termination during their internship will allow them to make ends meet and keep up with some portion of their loan payments as they search for new employment.”
The new law (formerly bill A-4895) eliminates the current exemption from unemployment insurance coverage for medical students who were employed as hospital interns. Under the law, these interns would be eligible for unemployment benefits just like other hospital employees.
Proposals at the federal level to cut Medicare and Medicaid and eliminate or limit the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing subsidies to insurers ultimately may lead to downsizing at health care facilities, which could cause hospital to cut interns’ positions, Egan noted.
“Medical interns work hard to provide their patients with quality care. They may be in their first year on the job, but they’re a pivotal piece to the quality of service being offered,” said Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Particularly given the tenuous nature of discussions about health care at the federal level, it’s important for New Jersey to implement this protection for interns now,” said Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Particularly given the tenuous nature of discussions about health care at the federal level, it’s important for New Jersey to implement this protection for interns now.”
“Mounting student loan debts are a major burden for too many college graduates,” said Pinkin (D- Middlesex). “Those who are fortunate enough to find paying medical internships should be given the same provisions as someone who works in the hospital and gets laid off. It is only right. They have bills and loans to pay just like any other regular employee.”
Seventeen states – Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming – Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands all allow medical interns to collect unemployment insurance benefits.
The legislation was advanced by the Assembly Labor Committee, of which Egan is chair on June 5 and approved by the full Assembly, 75-0, June 22. The bill was signed into law on August 7.