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(TRENTON) – The co-chairs of the bipartisan, bicameral Women’s Legislative Caucus today issued the following statement after more than three hours of illuminating testimony into the growing lack of access to women’s healthcare services and the possible contributing factors:

“The information we found out today was disturbing, enlightening, and most importantly, a call to action. Within the next 10 years, New Jersey will be facing an alarming shortage of physicians, particularly in fields such as obstetrics, gynecology and pediatrics, which disproportionately impact women and their families.

“Many of our experts testifying today agree that New Jersey’s distinction as the state with the seventh highest malpractice insurance rate is one of the contributing factors chasing medical students away from practicing in New Jersey after graduation. These exorbitant rates are also prompting physicians to retire earlier and limit the parameters of their practice to exclude high-risk patents.

“Furthermore, other states are offering better Medicaid reimbursement rates, more generous loan repayment programs, and prompter payment requirements for HMO’s. If a new doctor can go to a state like Kansas or Texas and earn three times as much, while also enjoying a lower cost of living, how are we going to entice them to stay in New Jersey? We need to take a cue from states that have had success in improving their physician retention climate as we move forward in addressing this issue in New Jersey.

“In the coming weeks and months, we hope to delve deeper into the issue of women’s healthcare and find both long-term solutions to stop this bleeding at the source and short-term solutions to help combat the lack of access here and now,” said Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), Senator Diane Allen (R-Burlington/Camden), Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex), and Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-Middlesex/ Monmouth).

The Women’s Legislative Caucus was created to promote a productive dialogue among the 34 female members of the legislature, spanning both parties and both houses, in order to address issues that directly impact women, and their children and families. At its first formal meeting on April 29, members unanimously decided that women’s healthcare should be its first priority given the abundance of statistics illustrating a decline in access to care for women.

A recent report from the New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals indicates that 62 percent of doctors finishing their residency in New Jersey plan to find work out of state. Based on this retention rate, the council predicts that New Jersey could face a shortfall of over 3,200 physicians within the next 10 years. This shortfall may disproportionately impact women in light of the fact that professions such as OB-GYN and pediatrics have the lowest retention rates of any physician subspecialty, with 7 percent and 12 percent respectively.

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