KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

HHS Announces $250 Million In Federal Funding To Boost Primary Care Providers

The Washington Post: "In an attempt to address a national shortage of health-care workers, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday that the federal government will spend $250 million in programs to increase the number of doctors, nurses and other care providers. The money ... includes $168 million to train 500 new primary-care physicians over the next five years, $30 million to encourage 600 nursing students to attend school full-time and complete their education, and $32 million to create 600 new physician assistants."

"The Health Resources and Services Administration will use some of the money to repay the loans of medical school graduates who agree to practice primary care in underserved rural and urban areas" (Fears, 6/17).

The Hill: "Investments in the healthcare workforce were not a main focus of the healthcare reform debate, even though medical experts have been warning about a looming shortage for years. A 2006 HRSA report projected a shortage of 55,000 to 150,000 physicians by 2020 - and that was before healthcare reform passed. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimated a shortage of about 21,000 primary care clinicians in 2015, without congressional action. Others have calculated that the country will have 100,000 fewer physicians by 2020 than the 1.1 million needed under the healthcare reform law" (Pecquet, 6/16).

CQ HealthBeat: "Sebelius said President Obama decided to use half of the $500 million in the prevention and public health fund that's part of the new health care law to pay for the expanded numbers of primary care providers. Together with funds allocated as part of the 2009 economic stimulus bill, Sebelius said it's expected that the development of 16,000 new health care providers will be supported by 2015. [Rep. Lois Capps said] the prevention and public health money wasn't something that was hotly debated during congressional consideration of the law but will be critical for improving American's health. … Officials also said the IRS is publicizing another provision in the new law that expands a tax break for providers who practice in underserved areas" (Norman, 6/16).

Congress Daily: The announcement drew criticism from some key Democrats. "While lawmakers and interest groups acknowledged that addressing a shortage of primary care physicians was important, they also said they were disappointed with the agency's use of half of the $500 million appropriated to the prevention fund in 2010 for purposes they say were not the intent of the law." Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., was quoted as saying, "I don't like the idea that there should be a scramble for funds when we had a pretty clear idea that we were going to use them for different purposes." Jeff Levi, the executive director of the Trust for America's Health, "said HHS' use of half of this year's prevention funds would mean that prevention efforts would have to 'do more with less'" (McCarthy, 6/17).

Ventura County Star: "In California, there are about 117 specialists and 63 primary care doctors for every 100,000 residents, according to a 2008 count from the California HealthCare Foundation. In Ventura County, the disparity was a little better, with a total of 861 specialists and 470 primary care docs. … Other provisions in healthcare reform are designed to boost Medi-Cal payments to primary care doctors, provide Medicare bonuses and offer assistance to doctors swimming in debt from medical school. It will all help, said Susan Hogeland of the California Academy of Family Physicians, which represents 7,000 physicians and medical students. But she pushed for more dramatic changes in government reimbursement" (Kisken, 6/16).

Modern HealthCare: "An HHS spokesman said guidance detailing how organizations can apply for the funding would be published shortly at www.grants.gov" (Carlson, 6/16).

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