HHS outlines $250M investment in primary-care workforce

An aging population, pay disparities and soon, millions of newly insured: It's neither a secret nor a surprise that the U.S. faces a growing shortage of primary-care clinicians. To begin addressing the problem, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Wednesday the federal government has targeted $250 million to bolster the nation's primary-care workforce. The move represents the first allocation from the new $500 million Prevention and Public Health program, created by the Affordable Care Act. It includes:

  • $168 million for training more than 500 new primary-care physicians by 2015;
  • $32 million for supporting development of more than 600 new physician assistants;
  • $30 million for encouraging over 600 nursing students to attend school full-time;
  • $15 million for operation of 10 nurse-managed health clinics, staffed by nurse practitioners, to assist in the training of nurse practitioners.
  • $5 million for states to implement innovative strategies to expand their primary-care workforces. 

Karen Jensen, chair of the nursing program at California State University Channel Islands in Camarillo, tells the Ventura County Star that nurse-managed clinics are a way to spread primary care to underserved areas. 

The Association of American Medical Colleges, which projects a shortage of 47,000 primary-care physicians in 2025, is cautiously optimistic. "It's just a small first step, but it's a step in the right direction," Atul Grover, AAMC's chief advocacy officer, tells the Washington Post. In a prepared statement, he calls on lawmakers and the administration to lift the freeze on Medicare-supported residency training "so that we have enough doctors to provide all Americans with the timely, high-quality care they deserve."

To learn more:
- here's the Washington Post article
- check out the Ventura County Star piece
- read the HHS press release
- and here are statements from the American College of Physicians and the Association of American Medical Colleges

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