Tuesday, January 17, 2017

HHS’s $240M ACA Funding Awards Support Primary Health Access

Not quite as 'sexy' is what the affordable care act is funding in regard to helping eliminate health care professional shortage.   Adding 30 million uninsured to the ranks of 'insured' increases the shortfall in regard to provider access.

“The most critical step in connecting people to quality health care is a primary care provider,” says Secretary Burwell within a press release. “These awards provide financial support directly to health professionals, including physicians, registered nurses, and physician assistants, to help individuals – particularly the 17.6 million uninsured who have recently gained coverage – find the primary care services they need,” Burwell adds.
According to HHS, over 9,600 NHSC primary care medical, dental, nursing and behavioral and mental health practitioners provide “culturally competent care to millions of medically underserved people.” Over 2,000 NURSE Corps nurses are working to strengthen care access, the organization maintains. The bipartisan Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama last April, allows for a two-year NHSC funding extension, explains HHS.
“These awards not only strengthen our primary health care workforce, but increase access to primary care in urban, rural and frontier locations nationwide,” adds Jim Macrae, Acting Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). “Collectively, these programs are serving millions of Americans who rely on the National Health Service Corps and NURSE Corps clinicians for essential health care services,” says Macrae.
A financial breakdown regarding the awards and the type of support they intend to offer is as follows:
  • National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program: 200 new awards at $39 million to provide students studying medicine, dentistry, or pursing education as a nurse-midwife, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner in exchange for the delivery of primary health care services in areas where need is “greatest”
  • National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program: nearly 3,000 new awards at nearly $126 million granted to fully trained primary care clinicians in exchange for providing primary health care services where need is “greatest”
  • National Health Service Corps Students to Service Loan Repayment Program: nearly 100 new awards at over $11 million to provide loan repayment assistance to allopathic and osteopathic medical students nearing graduation in return for their completion of a primary care residency and work within rural and urban areas of “greatest” need
  • NURSE Corps Scholarship Program: over 250 new awards at over $23 million granted to nursing students in exchange for a minimum two-year work agreement within a facility experiencing “critical shortages”
  • NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program: over 600 awards at almost $40 million to offer nurses loan repayment assistance in exchange for a commitment to serve at least 2 years at a healthcare facility with a “critical” nurse shortage or as a faculty member at an accredited nursing school
  • Faculty Loan Repayment Program: over $1 million for 21 new awards to health professions educators in exchange for serving as a faculty member in an accredited, eligible health professions school
  • Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship Program: nearly $800,000 to provide 9 new awards to Native Hawaiian healthcare professionals
Regarding such awards, it is perhaps unclear at this time what primary emotional, financial, professional, educational, and personal challenges students and healthcare professionals will face working in areas where there are noted staffing shortages and dire “critical” need situations. It is hopeful the student completion and retention rate, for instance, will remain steady. Nursing faculty – as well as other STEM-based faculty members – are now facing “the most severe” shortages within entire educational institutions, in turn threatening the collective quality of the nursing workforce. Will awards such as these help the healthcare industry thrive? Perhaps large sums of money placed on the table for loan repayments and the like will mean only the strongest survive, at least with heavier wallets.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded over $240 million this week – including nearly $176 million in Affordable Care Act (ACA) funding – to strengthen primary healthcare accessibility. Confirms HHS Secretary, Sylvia M. Burwell, funding will support the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and NURSE Corps scholarship and loan repayment programs.

HHS’s $240M ACA Funding Awards Support Primary Health Access
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