The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Jan. 11 released a report examining the health care workforce programs and planning efforts funded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The GAO reports that although the Office of the Secretary is the lead in workforce planning, there is no formal coordination of workforce programs across the department’s different agencies to ensure a health care workforce that is in alignment with the nation’s needs. The GAO also notes that funds for the largest HHS workforce programs are distributed according to statutory requirements and cannot be reallocated by HHS to address workforce shortage areas, which may extend beyond primary care and rural areas to include providers in dentistry, psychiatry, general surgery, and nursing.
The GAO recommends that HHS adopt a more comprehensive and coordinated planning effort to identify gaps and find solutions to those gaps, which may include addressing legislative barriers to effectively meet national health care workforce needs.
The study was undertaken at the request of Congress to determine if federal funding aligns with future national health care workforce needs. The GAO report included recommendations based on reviews of strategic planning documents, workforce projections reports, and other related documents obtained from HHS agencies as well as interviews with HHS officials.