Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced new legislation to address the health care workforce shortage while leading a hearing of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security. The massive shortage was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Sanders said.
The bill titled, A Dire Shortage and Getting Worse: Solving the Crisis in the Health Care Workforce, would “increase funding for the National Health Service Corps by $1 billion per year for ten years, permanently authorize the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program, authorize 14,000 new Medicare-supported medical residency positions over seven years, and establish new criteria for how the new Graduate Medical Education (GME) training positions would be allotted at qualifying hospitals with a minimum of 50% of new slots going towards primary care,” according to a press release from Senator Bernie Sanders.
“There is an extreme shortage of doctors and nurses in this country,” Sen. Sanders said. “Congress must address this crisis now or it will only worsen in the future. As a result, patients will suffer, unable to get the care they need.”
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the U.S. will have a “shortage of up to 139,000 physicians and a shortage of 55,200 physicians for primary care alone” by 2033. The shortage disproportionately affects rural and underserved areas, Sanders said.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which tracks Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) or areas that lack enough providers to care for the population in a geographic area or facility, determined that a major factor of the shortage was the congressionally-imposed cap on graduate medical education (GME) residency slots. Sanders bill would “make permanent the Teaching Health Center GME program (currently authorized through FY23) and increase funding for the program.”