The House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Subcommittee on Health Sept. 14 held a hearing to examine expired workforce programs under the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) including the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), Title VII health professions and Title VIII nursing workforce development, and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) programs. The hearing also focused on House legislative proposals that provide reauthorizations for these programs. The witnesses included Neil S. Calman, MD, FAAFP, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai/Mount Sinai Hospital; Adrian Billings, MD, PhD, FAAFP, from Texas Tech University Health Sciences; Janice A. Knebl, DO, MBA, from the University of North Texas Health Science Center, and Juliann G. Sebastian, PhD, RN, FAAN, from the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
The proposals examined included the Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency and Readiness (EMPOWER) Act of 2017 (H.R. 3728), a bill introduced by Health Subcommittee Chair Michael Burgess, MD (R-Texas), and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) that would reauthorize Title VII programs that are currently expired at FY 2017 levels through 2022. The hearing also focused on a Title VIII reauthorization bill introduced by Reps. David Joyce (R-Ohio), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Kathy Castor (D- Fla.), and others, called the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2017 (H.R. 959). The hearing also touched on a third bill introduced by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the THCGME Extension Act of 2017 (H.R. 3394).
Chair Burgess began the hearing with an opening statement expressing support for all four of the workforce programs being examined at the hearing, stating “each of these programs seeks to increase the access to providers in underserved areas and promote the training opportunities for medical students and providers to maintain their skills.” He went on to give specifics on the importance of the workforce programs, “For example programs like the NHSC and the Area Health Education Centers, supported by Title VII grants, and Teaching Health Centers tackle these shortages by connecting young providers with underserved communities. These programs are essential to addressing the nation’s provider shortage by connecting providers to those that are not served.”
The Chair also highlighted important components of the Title VII and VIII programs, “Title VII and Title VIII programs support opportunities for continuing medical education for the health care workforce, which is not only mandatory for many providers to keep their licenses, but it is also essential to providers as they attempt to keep up with evolving issues and treatments. In an age with modern drugs, and the 21st Century Cures Act supporting future innovation, we must ensure that our health care workforce is ready for these breakthroughs and prepared for future challenges.”
The AAMC-led Health Professions and Nursing Education Coalition (HPNEC) submitted a letter to the record thanking Chair Burgess and Ranking Member Gene Green (D-Texas) for supporting HRSA’s Title VII and Title VIII programs. The letter expressed the importance of the workforce programs, “The full spectrum of Title VII and Title VIII programs is essential to prepare our next generation of medical professionals to adapt to the changing health care needs of the nation’s growing and aging population, as well as to respond to critical and emerging public health concerns, including the opioid epidemic.”