Bipartisan Workforce Legislation Introduced in House

May 23, 2019
Health Policy

Last week, Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Michael C. Burgess (R-TX) introduced the bipartisan EMPOWER for Health Act of 2019 (H.R. 2781) in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The bill reauthorizes many workforce programs under Title VII of the Public Health Service Act, including geriatrics, and would ensure communities across the United States have access to health professionals and other critical supports to improve care for an aging population. With bipartisan support, swift passage of the bill would take a significant step toward training and supporting a health care workforce empowered to improve the quality of care for older adults.

The bill supports two critical objectives for geriatrics workforce programs. First, it would formally establish funding for the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP). Second, it would reestablish the Geriatric Academic Career Awards (GACAs), a previously funded program for developing clinician-educators. By supporting the GWEP and the GACAs, the bill would address the extreme shortage of health professionals expertly trained to care for the rapidly growing and diverse population of older Americans, and advance supports for older adults, caregivers, and the interprofessional teams responsible for delivering high quality care. This legislation reflects current Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) practices of awarding grants and collectively authorizes GWEPs and GACAs for $51 million.

The Society, through our work with the Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA), supports this legislation. The EWA is a group of 34 national organizations—representing consumers, family caregivers, and health care professionals, including direct care workers—joined together to address the immediate and future workforce crisis in caring for an aging America.