May 21, 2021
Senate HELP Subcommittee hearing on the health care workforce shortage
On May 20, the Senate Committee Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security held a hearing entitled, "A Dire Shortage and Getting Worse: Solving the Crisis in the Health Care Workforce." Subcommittee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) opened the hearing by outlining the severe shortages in the workforce, particularly in areas of primary care, but ended the hearing by saying it is "a solvable problem" that Congress and the medical profession ought to work together on addressing. He also announced that he is introducing legislation, the Addressing the Shortage of Doctors Act, which would authorize 14,000 new Medicare-supported medical residency positions over seven years, 50% of which would have to go towards primary care. Other subcommittee members also took the chance to discuss their legislation to address the workforce shortage, including Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME), whose Opioid Workforce Act would create 1,000 new medical residency positions focus on addiction medicine. Other member priorities and legislation focused on palliative care training, access in rural and underserved areas, and mental health for the health care workforce.
Throughout the hearing, the panel expressed their support for legislation that would increase GME slots and funding for training programs, such as through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), for loan repayment, faculty support, diversity and equity initiatives, and programs focused on vulnerable and underserved communities. There was consensus that more investment is needed in areas such as primary care and mental health and addiction medicine in particular, and that there are fundamental flaws in payment that incentivize things like high-cost procedures and less on people-focused specialties like primary care, which can improve health and reduce costs in the long-term. The panel also discussed issues such as faculty shortages, particularly in nursing schools, and noted the need for additional support for rural hospitals to develop their GME programs, among other issues.
Additional information is available in the attached Tax Alert.
Hearing on health care workforce shortage