The White House is investing $1.5 billion in American Rescue Plan funds to add more than 22,700 new providers to the country’s National Health Service Corps, Nurse Corps and Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery Program.
Announced by Vice President Kamala Harris Monday afternoon, the new money will fuel “the largest field strength in history for these programs and a record number of skilled doctors, dentists, nurses and behavioral health providers,” according to a release from the Biden administration.
Each of the three programs provides healthcare scholarship and loan repayment to students in exchange for a service commitment in underserved communities. According to the administration, more than 23.6 million people in the U.S. receive their care from National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps clinicians.
The money is a response to the dual challenges of a global pandemic and a widespread shortage of healthcare labor. Per the White House, the country will likely be short nearly 60,000 primary care doctors, dentists and psychiatrists during the next decade and will need an estimated 158,000 new nurses to graduate every year during the same period.
“A substantial barrier in meeting these health care needs is the student debt associated with graduate health education, which can average more than $200,000 per student and prevent students from underserved communities from even considering a career in healthcare professions,” the administration wrote.
The new investment is also a push to recruit more minority providers into the healthcare workforce.
Roughly 7% of physicians nationwide identify as Black or Hispanic/Latino, as opposed to more than 25% of those serving in the National Health Service Corps, according to the White House.
“The mobilization of these providers is a critical step towards addressing racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes and expanding the representation of these communities in healthcare professions,” the administration wrote.
The White House’s announcement highlighted an additional $330 million in American Rescue Plan funding for Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education that was unveiled earlier this year, which the administration said it “plans to begin awarding” to further support primary care and dentistry among underserved communities.
The administration also noted that its $1.5 billion push comes on the heels of a recent $785 million investment that, among other COVID-minded goals, allocates nearly $240 million toward a pipeline of community public health workers among underserved areas and populations.
Healthcare workforce support may also be on the horizon in federal legislation yet to come. Included in the roughly $2 trillion Build Back Better Act passed by the House of Representatives late last week is a 4,000-slot expansion of the number of Medicare-supported physician graduate medical education slots.