Geriatrics Training Proposals Not Supported in the President’s FY 2021 Budget

Legislation | February 11, 2020 | by Andrea Price-Carter

Faculty with expertise in geriatrics are needed to train the workforce and provide specialized care to improve health outcomes for older adults.

The President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Budget reflects the Administration’s commitments to “advance a patient-centered healthcare system, protect the lives of the American people, promote independence, and streamline federal programs.” The Budget requests for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) prioritizes funding for health workforce programs requiring service commitments in underserved areas and makes investments for behavioral health professionals.

The FY 2021 Budget does not recommend funding for education and training related to geriatrics, through the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) administered by HRSA, in spite of its current appropriated level of $40.7 million. Additionally, the Budget does not include a funding request for the Geriatric Academic Career Awards (GACA).

The GWEPs improve health care for older adults by developing a health care workforce to provide value-based care that improves health outcomes for older adults by integrating geriatrics and primary care delivery sites/systems. The Program maximizes patient and family engagement in health care decisions and provides training focusing on interprofessional and team-based care across the educational continuum (students, faculty, providers, direct service workers, patients, families, and lay and family caregivers). In Academic Year 2018-2019, GWEP grantees provided training for 39,585 students and fellows participating in a variety of geriatrics-focused degree programs, field placements, and fellowships.

Consequently, in FY 2019, HRSA funded the GACA Program to support the career development of junior faculty in geriatrics at accredited schools of allopathic medicine, osteopathic medicine, nursing, social work, psychology, dentistry, pharmacy, or allied health. Faculty with expertise in geriatrics are needed to train the workforce and provide specialized care to improve health outcomes for older adults.

LeadingAge, and members of the Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA), continue to advocate for bills that will reauthorize the GWEP and GACA programs. Over the past few years, we have seen increases to the programs by a few million dollars, and we are working to get the number to $51 million from its current appropriated level. The $51 million will help fill in geographic gaps and address workforce shortages in geriatrics training across the country.

Last year the House-passed the Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency and Readiness (EMPOWER) for Health Act (H.R. 2781), to reauthorize the Title VII health professions education and training programs from fiscal 2020 through 2024. It includes provisions that reauthorize the GWEP/GACA programs at a $51 million funding level.
 

The Senate HELP Committee has marked-up the Title VII Health Care Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019 (S. 2997), which included reauthorizing the GWEP/GACA programs, but it did so a funding level of our last appropriated amount of $40.7 million.

We are continuing to work with both the House and Senate to enact legislation that will reauthorize programs that train the workforce and provide specialized care to improve health outcomes for older adults at the highest funding levels.