(Washington, D.C) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray applauded the announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services that they have allocated $250 million from the new health care reform law to strengthen and grow the primary care workforce. This new investment, along with the additional workforce training funding Senator Murray worked to secure in the new law, will help prepare the health system to meet the demand for health care workers by training 16,000 new doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, and public health workers over the next five years. As a senior member of the Senate Health Committee, Senator Murray was the lead writer of the health care workforce section in the new law and has been working closely with the administration on its implementation.
“I worked hard to make sure the new health care law makes the investments we need in training new doctors and nurses in Washington state and across the country,” said Senator Patty Murray. “As we work to make sure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care coverage, we also need to ensure there are enough health care workers to provide that care. I have been working closely with the administration as this new law begins working to help families and health care providers. And I am going to continue working to make sure we continue investing in primary care and preventive medicine.”
The American Academy of Family Physicians predicts that, if current trends continue, the shortage of family doctors will reach 40,000 in a little more than 10 years, as medical schools send about half the needed number of graduates into primary medicine. The overall shortage of doctors may grow to 124,400 by 2025, according to a study by the Association of American Medical Colleges.
The investment announced today includes the following initiatives to support the growth of our health care workforce:
· Creates additional primary care residency slots: $168 million for training more than 500 new primary care physicians by 2015;
· Encourages students to pursue full-time nursing careers: $30 million for transitioning over 600 part-time nursing students to full-time students so that they have better odds of completing their education;
· Increases access to providers in underserved areas: The Affordable Care Act builds on the important work of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) to address the nation’s workforce demands. The NHSC repays educational loans and provides scholarships to primary care health care providers who practice in areas of the country that have too few health care professionals to serve people who live there. Eligible providers include primary care physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. The Affordable Care Act provides $1.5 billion over five years to expand the National Health Service Corps. This builds on a $300 million investment in the NHSC in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The combined nearly $2 billion investment is expected to result in an increase of more than 12,000 additional primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants by 2016.
· Focuses on career training: The Department of Labor is providing job training across the health care sector with a focus on low-skill and low-wage workers. In FY 2010 and 2011, the Department is making grants available to community colleges, consortia of community colleges, two-year Hispanic-Serving Institutions or Historically Black Colleges, Workforce Investment Boards, and other training institutions for the development or expansion of career pathway programs that prepare workers for careers in the health care sector. These programs build on efforts already underway. In fact, today, the Department of Labor is announcing the release of $14.7 million in new grants made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These funds will support projects designed to provide health care training and virtual service-delivery models to promote career opportunities in the health care sector.
· Provides financial assistance for students: The Department of Education currently makes more than $150 billion in aid available to students to help pay for undergraduate and graduate education, through a combination of grants, loans, work study, and tax credits. The Affordable Care Act increases the Federal government’s investment in Pell Grants by $40 billion, to ensure that all eligible students receive an award and that these awards are increased in future years to help keep pace with the rising costs of a college education.