U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
HRSA Press Office: (301) 443-3376
by HRSA Administrator Mary K. Wakefield
February 15, 2011
Thanks so much for the opportunity to talk with you about the work we’re doing – in partnership with academic institutions and healthcare faculty - to support individuals in healthcare careers and to support access to primary care health services, particularly for underserved, medically and geographically vulnerable communities and populations. These areas of focus are at the core of the mission of HRSA – we have a foot in the camp of strengthening our healthcare workforce across the country and also ensuring that disadvantaged have access to high quality primary care.
First in terms of health careers- HRSA has a signature program in the NHSC that, through the new law, has been markedly revitalizing investments in placing health care providers willing to work in high need urban and rural communities. And, in exchange, these clinicians have scholarship support to attend nurse practitioner, dental or medical school or they can apply for loan repayment.
By the end of this year, primarily due to the ACA and some investments from the Recovery Act, we’ll basically triple the number of the NHSC since 2008 - from 2800 clinicians then to almost 10,500 clinicians later this year –thousands more health care providers serving in hard to reach communities. In exchange, the NHSC clinicians get substantial loan repayment –and of course a salary from their employer. And, these are good jobs in underserved communities that drive and attract more jobs –impacting both the economic health of the community as well as the health of the population in that community. You’ll see medical students, oral hygienists and others from each of your states participating in this as we push to get the word out and help students that otherwise would be struggling with debt and – because of that debt - often motivated to take only the highest paying jobs even if they would have wanted to help people most in need. As states have cut back some of their support for students, this has been, and will be going forwards, an important investment. It is the difference for real people between having access to a dentists or going to an emergency room for an oral health problem.
Beyond the NHSC, we have an array of training and scholarship investments that we make to get disadvantaged and minority students into health careers –from high school students to college students working with minority serving and other higher educational institutions. Most of our programs were strengthened through ACA provisions.
In addition to supporting the new healthcare providers that are doing incredibly important work, the ACA also supports the locations where healthcare is provided, from community health centers to nurse managed centers-some of these facilities located in public housing or mobile vans and all part of the safety net for now over 20 million people. The ACA has a very significant investment in health centers to support new ones and expand services for those already providing care for the most vulnerable among us-about 1/3 of whom are children. Hundreds of thousands of people have turned to these high quality care facilities during these difficult economic times as people lost their jobs-they and their families lost their insurance and so they lost access to primary health care. With the ACA investments, we expect to double the number of people seen as community health centers between now and about 2015. For the uninsured that are seen at chcs, no one can be turned away because of their inability to pay and a sliding scale is used so that if you can pay something you do.
To summarize, our workforce investment and our care delivery programs markedly strengthened in the ACA are about recalibrating health care by focusing on services that keep people healthy and helping them manage their chronic conditions rather than simply waiting until they are ill and in need of more intense expensive care.