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If workforce shortage is a challenge everyone agrees on why is this Commission sitting idle?

April 18, 2013

Hey, remember way back in 2010 when the GAO announced appointments to a new National Health Care Commission? Here is an excerpt from the announcement about the purpose of the Commission:

  • The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act created the Commission to serve as a national resource for Congress, the President, and states and localities; to communicate and coordinate with federal departments; to develop and commission evaluations of education and training activities; to identify barriers to improved coordination at the federal, state, and local levels and recommend ways to address them; and to encourage innovations that address population needs, changing technology, and other environmental factors.

    The Act requires the Comptroller General to appoint the Commission members and the members are required to be appointed for three-year terms, but staggered terms are mandated for the first 15 members appointed in September 2010. Those first group of appointments are set at one, two, or three years.

Only one problem… the Commission was never funded and has never met. Ouch. The Children’s Mental Health Network has brought up the issue of workforce development in anticipation for the rollout of the ACA on several occasions. One of our favorite posts of many on the topic of expanding the workforce to meet the needs of families is from last May but still worth a re-read – check it out here.

Okay, back to the challenge at hand.

This week, The Association of Academic Health Centers made its way to Capitol Hill to call on lawmakers to quickly fund and expedite the work of a long-idle commission established by the health law to make periodic recommendations about the health care workforce (Read their issue brief here). That commission has gone unfunded for three years, even as experts suggested that the lack of access to health care professionals — especially for patients in rural, underserved areas — could reach crisis levels.

In a hearing on Tuesday convened by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to discuss the problem, Sanders issued a report estimating that 57 million Americans live without ready access to primary care.

This is going to have an impact on children and youth with emotional challenges and their families, so this is one worthy of paying attention to and tracking.

  • “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.”

This issue is not going away. The Commission needs to be funded and start meeting ASAP.

Let us know what you think Network faithful.

Scott Bryant-Comstock
President & CEO

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