The Biden administration announced Thursday that it will allocate $ 100 million to the National Health Service Corps to help address the shortage of healthcare workers.
Drawn from funding from the American Rescue Plan, the $ 100 million represents one of the country’s largest investments in a program that helps place primary care physicians in communities that have difficulty recruiting and locating them. hold back. That’s a five-fold increase from previous years, the Department of Health and Human Services said.
The National Health Service Corps offers loan repayments and scholarships to clinicians in return for years of service in areas that lack health care providers.
“Whether you are in rural America or a low-income part of America, that shouldn’t be a reason why you can’t access good quality health care,” the secretary told Health Xavier Becerra during a telephone interview. “And so we want to help the states that are going to try to do what they can to keep this public health workforce in these rural communities, these low income communities, they are where the people need them. “
The announcement comes after the United States lost 17,500 healthcare workers in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With industry employment figures now standing at just under 16 million, the agency reported that the country had lost 524,000 healthcare workers since the start of the pandemic. Job losses in nursing, hospitals and residential care posted the industry’s biggest declines last month.
The loss of employees in turn increased labor costs. Hospitals and other medical facilities have had to sharply increase their spending on recruiting and retaining employees, according to a report released last week by Moody’s Investors Services. This has led to employee benefit options and login bonuses that can go up to five figures since the start of the pandemic.
“Covid has essentially caused a laser focus on the glaring gaps and dysfunctions in the US healthcare system,” said Tener Veenema, an academic specializing in workforce issues at the Center for Health Security at Johns University. Hopkins. “Making investments to redistribute health care providers to rural areas, areas with low resources, is so important because we know how much they suffer from a lack of access to good health care. ”
States will be able to apply for grants until April, and the Department of Health and Human Services plans to award up to 50 grants of up to $ 1 million per year over a four-year period.
Participating states will not have to match funds or share costs in any way to obtain the grants, and they can use 10 percent of the grant for administrative costs.
“With these funds, states can design programs that optimize the selection of disciplines and locations of service, and tailor the length of service engagements to address the areas most in need in their communities,” said Diana Espinosa, Administrator by Acting Health Resources and Services Administration, which oversees the program. “This investment will have a huge impact on access to primary care and reducing health disparities at a critical time. “
The project start date is only September 2022, so it will not have an immediate effect on the current labor shortage. This, however, represents the latest move by the Biden administration to address the problem which experts say will only worsen over the next decade.
President Joe Biden withdrew $ 100 million this year from the US bailout to support the Medical Reserve Corps, an all-volunteer army of doctors, nurses and medical support teams in hopes of picking up the pace vaccinations against Covid-19.
“A hundred million dollars will not be enough for everyone,” admitted Becerra. “But it will certainly help our state partners a lot to provide resources to these local communities, so that they can keep this health worker there, keep them trained, ready and prepared to keep them healthy.”
CORRECTION (October 14, 2021, 3:26 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated when states will be able to apply for grants. They can apply until April, not from April.