Congress stalls important health care improvement work.by Denise Early on May. 31, 2011, under Health
With or without health care reform and 30 million newly-insured Americans, everyone agrees we need more primary care physicians, more physician assistants, and more skilled health care workers. Everyone seems to agree there should be a coordinated effort to identify locations where there are doctor shortages and come up with ways to train and hire health care workers around the country. But the politics of health care reform is preventing this from happening.
The Affordable Care Act calls for the creation of a commission to guide the country in matching the supply of health-care workers with needs. A commission of health care experts was appointed more than 8 months ago -but they have been unable to start their work because Congress has withheld funding.
The group cannot convene, converse or hire staff because $3 million that it needs for its initial year has been blocked by two partisan wars on Capitol Hill — strife over the federal budget and Republicans’ disdain for the health-care changes that Democrats muscled into law 14 months ago.
The National Health Care Workforce Commission is intended as an ongoing brain trust to focus new energy on solving an old problem that will become increasingly severe. The law says the new commission will analyze primary-care shortages and propose innovations for the government — and medical schools — to help produce the doctors and other health workers the nation needs.
Proponents of the workforce commission say they were surprised that Republicans have balked, because there has, in the past, been little ideological schism over the need to bolster the supply of primary care — doctors, nurses, physicians assistants and others.