HHS Announces $250 Million Primary Care Workforce Investment
On June 16, 2010, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced $250 million in new investments to increase the number of health care providers and strengthen the primary care workforce. This announcement reflects an increasing focus on workforce issues as part of health care reform implementation. The new investments are part of the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
The funding, which will support the training and development of more than 16,000 new primary care providers over the next five years, represents one half of the new $500 million Prevention and Public Health fund for fiscal year 2010, created by PPACA. Among other investments, the funding will support a number of nursing-related strategies:
The Internal Revenue Service is also taking steps to ensure that health professionals are aware that PPACA includes a provision that excludes from taxes the value of student loans that were repaid or forgiven because the individual worked in certain health professions, including primary care. This provision is retroactive to 2009. For 2009, approximately $10 million in tax refunds will be made available to health care professionals who practice medicine in areas that need it most.
- $30 million for educating nurse practitioners, including incentives encouraging more part-time nurse practitioner students to pursue full-time education.
- $15 million for establishing new nurse practitioner-led health clinics, which assist in the training of nurse practitioners, to provide primary care health services, especially in underserved communities.
- $5 million for states to plan and implement innovative strategies to expand their primary care workforce by 10 to 25 percent over ten years.
A fact sheet on the primary care workforce investment can be found at: www.healthreform.gov/newsroom/primarycareworkforce.html.
White House Orders Agencies to Pinpoint Programs for Budget Cuts
To begin preparing for the FY 2012 budget, the White House has instructed federal agencies to compile a list of their "least critical" programs, adding up to at least 5 percent of their discretionary budgets. The White House views this as a way to modernize and reform government while reducing waste and making the government more efficient during a time when the public's trust in government is low and concerns about the budget deficit are high. All agencies, including the Pentagon, would be required to compile such lists.
Additionally, President Obama plans to ask Congress in the coming weeks to pass legislation to give federal agencies the authority to keep half of their saved or unspent money during a given fiscal year. The goal is to provide a disincentive for agencies to spend all that they have been appropriated as they currently lose whatever they have not spent. The administration's stated goal is not to cut spending while the economy remains shaky but to put the government on a path to reducing deficits in the next few years.
Chairman Obey to Retire in 2010
After more than 41 years in Congress and in his fourth year at the helm of the House Appropriations Committee, Representative David Obey (D-WI) announced his departure on May 5. The veteran Wisconsin Democrat had been facing a tougher-than-usual re-election battle in a bid for a 21st term, but he said that did not influence his decision. A fiery advocate of liberal causes, he voiced frustration in his speech that he was unable to achieve all that he sought to accomplish but he felt it was time to leave. Obey's decision to resign at the end of the 111th Congress comes amid political battles that have so far delayed work on the annual spending bills.
FROM THE STATES . . .
Report Released on Michigan Nurse Shortage
A report prepared by a task force of the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has drawn attention to the nurse shortage in the state and called for immediate changes in nursing education, credentials, standards of practice, and regulation. The Task Force on Nursing Education (TFNE) was established in 2007 as an advisory board to MDCH. Its report extensively outlines the problems nurses face in Michigan with detailed information on their status — e.g., working conditions, education, licensure rate, and retention rate — as well as the overall quality of health care and patient safety in general over the past two years.
With the help of experienced health care officials, TFNE compiled a list of recommended policy changes to increase the number of nurses throughout the state, and prepared Nursing Education Position Papers (NEEPs) on the following subjects:
The report provides details on each of the NEEPs and offers a substantive analysis of what MDCH should focus on.
- National accreditation for all nursing programs
- Quality and safety: a priority in nursing education programs
- Nurse residency programs for newly licensed graduates of all nursing education programs
- Increasing the capacity of nursing education to graduate more advanced practice registered nurses
- Financing nursing education
- Improving nursing education through the Michigan Nursing Education Council
- Improving Michigan nursing education regulation through the Michigan Board of Nursing Rules
In addition to the report, TFNE sent a letter to Governor Jennifer Granholm (D) outlining its mission and recommendations to MDCH, and seeking her support. As the MDCH has looked favorably on the recommendations and the governor does support them, the recommendations likely will be adopted by the bureaucracy. While implementation will take time, it is hoped that the proposals will become standard practice one day.