With an increasing clinician shortage in underserved areas, the HHS grant is crucial for increasing the healthcare workforce to improve patient’s access to care.
Through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), HHS is providing $319 million in scholarship and loan repayment awards for dental, medical, and behavioral health to boost the healthcare workforce in underserved areas, according to a recent announcement.
The scholarships provided through the National Health Services Corps (NHSC) will enable more than 13,000 medical, dental, and behavioral health clinicians to provide quality care to over 13.7 million Americans in rural, urban and tribal communities. The funds will also support almost 1,480 students and medical residents preparing to serve in the Corps, HHS reported.
“President Trump has prioritized improving healthcare for Americans in rural communities, which includes building a strong, sustainable rural healthcare workforce,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar explained in the announcement.
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This year’s awards significantly expand NHSC’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic in areas of greatest need, HHS highlighted. The investment includes $80 million that will support almost 1,250 clinicians providing substance use disorder treatment in underserved communities, including more than 2,000 rural sites.
“These loan repayment awards and scholarships make it possible for dedicated clinicians to care for the patients who need them most, including Americans with opioid use disorder and other substance abuse challenges,” Azar emphasized.
The NHSC is a staple of the federal government’s healthcare safety net programs. More than 60 percent of NHSC participants work in federally funded community health centers, which provide a lifeline to quality healthcare in high-need communities throughout the nation.
HHS awards support many programs to help recipients address the challenges of establishing rural residency programs, including securing sustainable funding and expand care access to broader regions.
The program awarded with the largest sum of money was the NHSC Loan Repayment Program, with a $156.7 million award that will provide 4,012 new and 2,385 continuation awards to fully trained, licensed primary care clinicians. In exchange for the loan repayment, the providers will deliver primary care services in an area of great need.
A few of the other programs receiving awards are the National Health Service Corps Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program and National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program, which received $66 million and $47.6 million, respectively.
Physician demand continues to increase faster than supply, resulting in a projected total physician shortage of up to 121,900 doctors by 2032, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reported.
The fifth annual study, prepared by the Life Science division of HIS Markit for AAMC, revealed that the growing and aging population continues to be a major driver of the physician shortage.
Overall, the physician shortage is likely to get worse as time goes on, AAMC highlighted. The association found that more than two out of five currently active physicians are approaching retirement age in the next decade, and their decision to stop practicing could have the greatest impact on physician supply, the report stated.
“The nation’s population is growing and aging, and as we continue to address population health goals like reducing obesity and tobacco use, more Americans will live longer lives. These factors and others mean we will need more doctors,” Darrell G. Kirch, MD, AAMC president and CEO stated in a press release.
The physician shortage is particularly impacting primary care, according to data from UnitedHealth Group. Thirteen percent reside in an area experiencing a primary care shortage, with rural residents being five times more likely to live in one of these communities, the group reported in 2018.
A lack of primary care services could negatively impact the value-based care transition, which relies on preventive and primary care services to control costs and improve outcomes for patients. The overall clinician shortage could also harm patient access to care.
America’s clinician shortage continues to remain real and significant, but federal support for residency training could help bolster the healthcare workforce.
“Addressing the shortage will require a multipronged approach, including innovation in delivery, greater use of technology; improved, efficient use of all health professionals on the care team; and an increase in federal support for residency training,” AAMC stated.
“Because physician training can take up to a decade, a physician shortage in 2032 is a problem that needs to be addressed now,” the association stressed.
Source: RevCycle Intelligence