Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and HELP Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security Ranking Member Roger Marshall, MD, (R-Kan.) announced that they had reached an agreement on health care workforce legislation entitled the Bipartisan Primary Care and Health Workforce Act. The committee announced that the legislation will be marked up on Sept. 21. Upon release of the bill, Ranking Member Bill Cassidy, MD, (R-La.) expressed frustration with the legislation, calling it “unfinished and haphazardly drafted.”
The legislation contains investments in health care workforce programs, including Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education, Community Health Centers, and the National Health Service Corps, and would reauthorize existing Health Resources and Services Administration workforce programs and authorize a new Rural Residency Planning and Development grant program, among other programs. The $26 billion legislative proposal also contains controversial provisions to pay for these investments that include eliminating facility fees for telehealth and evaluation and management services billed to commercial insurance, imposing federal involvement in contract negotiations between hospitals and insurers, requiring separate identification numbers and attestations for hospital outpatient departments, and reducing nearly $1 billion in funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which supplements annual funding for public health agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sanders introduced similar legislation in July, and the AAMC sent a letter supporting investments in health care workforce programs, but raised concerns about problematic policies that would reduce patient access to care [refer to Washington Highlights, July 21].