Provider groups are cheering Monday's passage by the House of Representatives of a bill that would reauthorize federal health professions workforce programs, including education and training in geriatrics.
The Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency and Readiness (EMPOWER) Act, also known as H.R. 3728, was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on Tuesday. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate earlier this year.
The House legislation would reauthorize the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement program under which health professions schools can receive grants to integrate geriatrics with primary care training and education, and it also would revive Geriatric Academic Career Awards to support the training of health care professionals who can provide geriatric clinical education. It had been introduced in late 2017 by Rep. Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.
“The EMPOWER Act is a good step in the right direction in ensuring we have a highly trained workforce in the area of gerontology,” Argentum Chief Operating Officer Maribeth Bersani told McKnight's Senior Living. “Argentum strongly supports the development of a healthcare workforce that maximizes resident and family engagement and improves health outcomes for older adults. The more knowledge primary care and other providers have to care for older adults, including specialized education in the field of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, the better the outcomes.”
The bill would prioritize grant awards to programs that benefit rural or underserved populations of older people; that train healthcare providers across care settings, including long-term care facilities and home- and community-based services providers; that integrate behavioral health services with primary care; and that train healthcare workers in social determinants of health, said Barbara Gay, LeadingAge's vice president of public policy communications.
“We are especially encouraged that long-term services and supports are specifically mentioned as potential clinical training sites, recognition that long-term services and supports providers too seldom receive,” she said. “By itself, this bill is not the entire answer to our workforce challenges, but it moves us a step closer to effective solutions.”