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ADA, others support bill addressing workforce shortages, disparities

Legislation would increase funding for National Health Service Corps

September 09, 2020

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The ADA and nine other health care organizations are supporting legislation aimed at improving the health workforce shortage and health disparities highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an Aug. 14 letter to Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the coalition — led by the Association of Clinicians for the Underserved — urged the lawmakers to support S 4055, the Strengthening America’s Health Care Readiness Act, in the next coronavirus response package.

If enacted, S 4055 would support the National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps programs to meet the challenges as a result of the pandemic, by providing a one-time, supplemental appropriation for scholarship and loan forgiveness awards to address health provider shortages and gaps in our health care system.

“This funding would include a focus on recruiting health practitioners from historically underrepresented populations, such as racial and ethnic minorities and individuals from low-income urban and rural communities, which helps to improve retention and health outcomes and address disparities that have been compounded by the coronavirus,” the groups wrote.

The Strengthening America’s Health Care Readiness legislation would also establish a pilot demonstration project, which would allow members of the National Health Service Corps workforce to serve in emergency capacities through the National Disaster Medical System. The pilot would expand the NHSC’s emergency preparedness capacity by enabling individuals currently serving or alumni who continue to practice in health professional shortage areas to be available for rapid deployment for health emergencies.

“Nationwide, we have seen shortfalls in our health workforce capacity — whether in overstrained urban hospitals or in rural areas with too few providers to adequately meet the pandemic response,” the groups wrote. “While our nation was already facing a projected shortage of hundreds of thousands of doctors, nurses and other clinicians prior to COVID-19, there is an acute need to surge funding for our health workforce now. While we support separate longer-term efforts at extending the authorization for these programs, the coronavirus — and lack of funding for these programs in relief laws to date — underscores that supplemental through S 4055 is needed today.”

The ADA also sent an Aug. 28 letter in support of this bill.

For more information about the ADA’s advocacy efforts during COVID-19, visit ADA.org/COVID19Advocacy.