February 26, 2024

Wyden and Sanders Joint Statement on Expanding Primary Care and Health Care Workforce in America » Senator Bernie Sanders

WASHINGTON, July 27 – Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Thursday issued a joint statement signaling a commitment from both Finance and HELP to partner and work towards legislation aimed at addressing primary care and other health care workforce shortages across the country:

“In our country today, tens of millions of Americans are unable to access the primary care, dental care, maternity care, long-term services and supports, and behavioral health care that they desperately need, in large part because of massive shortages of health care workers. Addressing health care workforce shortages across the country is going to require fresh, big-league ideas that leave no stone unturned. The HELP and Finance Committees are responsible for federal health care policy that touches every part of the country, and we are confident that together our committees can find solutions to pass the Senate that ensure health care providers are able to give communities and patients the care they need and expect. 

“On September 30th, mandatory funding for community health centers, the National Health Service Corps, and Teaching Health Centers is set to expire. These programs are vital to supporting a robust health care workforce in the United States and should be substantially expanded to meet today’s challenges.

“It is estimated that our country faces a shortage of more than 120,000 doctors – including an acute shortage of primary care doctors. We cannot grow the number of doctors in America without addressing the reality that thousands of applicants for a residency position don’t match with a residency program due to a lack of funding. It is vitally important that we expand funding for the GME program – and dedicate a substantial portion of those slots to primary care and psychiatry residents where the greatest shortages of physicians exist.

“In addition to building up the physician workforce through GME programs, we are also focused on incentivizing health care providers to partner with schools to train and develop health care professionals, from medical assistants to advanced practice nurses. We will also continue to prioritize expanding the number of behavioral health providers, improving access to maternal health providers in rural areas, and investing in the direct care workforce to ensure the health and safety of older Americans and people with disabilities.

“Virtually every major medical organization in America understands that an investment in building the health care workforce is crucial to ensuring the health of all Americans. They understand that focusing on these shortages will enable disease prevention and provide Americans with medical care that will not only save lives, but will save money. This effort is going to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to get across the finish line.

“As the Chairs of the Finance Committee and the HELP Committee, we are committed to working with our committee members on legislation to bring forward in the fall to significantly expand primary care and the health care workforce in America.”

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