Crisis in healthcare workforce

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Ah yes, it seems like yesterday (2010 actually), that we were thrilled that the GAO announced appointments to a National Health Care Workforce Commission, a panel charged with helping devise solutions to the nation’s health care workforce crisis - an issue so important now that we are moving full-tilt into health care reform. Only one problem. The Commission has never been funded and it has never met. Whoops...

With massive changes upon us with the ACA, this is concerning. The need for health care providers, especially in underserved areas, will only grow as efforts to enroll Americans in healthcare coverage grow. In a Congressional hearing on Tuesday, Senator Bernie Sanders (I - Vt.), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, issued a report estimating that 57 million Americans live without ready access to primary care. “In order for the promise of expanded coverage passed into law by ACA to become a reality, the provisions designed to reach those goals must be fully funded and implemented,” Sanders said in the report. “We need to make sure that our health care system has the infrastructure in place to provide the care necessary to prevent diseases and improve the health of all Americans.”

The Affordable Care Act created the commission “to develop a fiscally sustainable integrated workforce that supports a high-quality, readily accessible health care delivery system that meets the needs of patients and populations.” The commission was supposed to explore the health workforce needs in rural and “medically underserved” settings, the capacity of the nursing workforce, graduate medical education policies, education and loan programs for health care professionals and the “mental and behavioral health care workforce capacity.” You read right, mental and behavioral health workforce capacity... Talk to your representatives about this folks.

If you need further statistics to help support your case, take a look at the three reports cataloguing supply and demand in the health care workforce just put out by the Bipartisan Policy Center.  "The resources and data available currently do not provide the whole picture of the health professional workforce. We cannot rely on these outdated and incomplete tools to make smart decisions about workforce strategy, budgeting, policy and education," the center concludes, lamenting the failure to launch a health care workforce commission created in the Affordable Care Act.

The results of the reports are not encouraging, citing lags of 10 years or more after health care professionals begin their education and training.

Read on, courageous Network faithful:

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