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Senators Blunt, Reed Introduce Bill To Build A Stronger Health Care Workforce

June 13, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) and U.S. Senator Jack Reed (R.I.) introduced the “Building a Health Care Workforce for the Future Act” (S. 1152) to make it easier for students to pursue careers in health care.

“As our nation faces many health care challenges, including workforce shortages, it’s critical that we encourage medical students to pursue careers in primary and specialty care in underserved communities,” Blunt said. “This bill will help to build a stronger health care workforce while increasing access to quality health care for those who need it most.”

“Our nation faces a longstanding shortage of health care providers.  In particular, the demand for primary care doctors is growing, but the supply is not keeping pace.  This is a problem that is only going to get worse unless Congress acts,” Reed said.  “The Reed-Blunt plan would give our medical workforce a booster shot and ultimately expand and improve access to health care.”

The bill authorizes $290 million total: including $20 million for each year FY14-18 for state scholarships, $20 million  for each year FY14-20 for mentorships, and $10 million for each year FY14-18 for core competencies.

Specifically, the bill includes:

  • State Scholarship Programs. The bill expands on the success of the National Health Service Corps scholarship program by providing states federal matching funds help address health care workforce shortages in professional shortage areas designated by the state and approved by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
  • Mentors for Medical Students. The bill would authorize grants to medical schools to increase mentorship opportunities for medical students who express interest in a primary care career upon graduation.
  • New Competencies. As the nation’s demographics and health care delivery system change, the health care workforce will face new challenges. The bill would authorize grants to medical schools to improve competencies in priority areas, including educational innovations in promoting the patient-centered medical home; integrating primary care and mental health and/or public health/prevention; cultural competency; team-based care; and other priorities.

Documentation Requirements for Cognitive Service. Medicare requires physicians providing evaluation and management services to complete extensive and burdensome documentation requirements. The bill would direct the Institute of Medicine to conduct a study within three years that examines how such requirements could be modified for electronic records, analyzes whether the requirements are excessive and potentially detract from patient care, and provides recommendations for less burdensome alternatives.

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