HHS Details $250M Investment in Primary Care Workforce

John Commins, June 17, 2010

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the federal government has targeted $250 million to bolster the nation's primary care workforce.

The funding represents the first allocation from the $500 million Prevention and Public Health fund for fiscal 2010, created by the Affordable Care Act. Half of the fund—$250 million—will attempt to boost the number of primary care providers in this country by:

  • Creating additional primary care residency slots: $168 million for training more than 500 new primary care physicians by 2015;
  • Supporting physician assistant training in primary care: $32 million to develop more than 600 new physician assistants;
  • Encouraging students to pursue full-time nursing careers: $30 million for more than 600 nursing students to attend school full-time so they can complete their education faster;
  • Establishing new nurse practitioner-led clinics: $15 million for 10 nurse-managed health clinics to train nurse practitioners;
  • Encouraging states to address health professional workforce needs: $5 million for states to plan strategies to expand their primary care workforce by 10% to 25%.

"These new investments will strengthen our primary care workforce to ensure that more Americans can get the quality care they need to stay healthy," Sebelius said in a media release. "Primary care providers are on the front line in helping Americans stay healthy by preventing disease, treating illness, and helping to manage chronic conditions."

Roland Goertz, MD, a family physician in Waco, TX, and president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians, says the funding is "a great first step."

"It addresses the key issues. It helps us move toward the patient-centered medical home as a model of care delivery, working with registered nurses, PA nurses, and others in the system," Goertz says. "But we need to have a movement toward rebalancing. And the imbalance has been created over a long period of time. We haven't had an adequate balance of primary care physicians in this country since the 1960s. It can't just be one time for two or three years. It has to be for a sustained period of time to correct the imbalance."

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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