HR Policy Association provided input to Congress on bipartisan ways to alleviate the current shortage of health care workers and specific ways to improve access to mental health care services. The letter was sent to Senators Sanders (I-VT) and Cassidy (R-LA), who lead the HELP Committee, in response to a request for input from stakeholders on what is driving the workforce shortage and potential solutions.
The Association’s letter highlighted several actions Congress should take to increase the health care workforce, including:
- Expanding funding for clinical training opportunities and supporting partnerships between universities and community health care entities to provide opportunities for clinical training;
- Expanding tuition loan repayment programs and scholarships;
- Encouraging graduates to serve in rural and underserved areas; and
- Removing state barriers that prohibit providers from working at the top of their license and education due to scope of practice laws.
The Association’s letter also noted several actions large employers have taken to improve access to behavioral health providers and services, including providing enhanced employee assistance programs in addition to their health plan mental health benefits, expanding mental health navigation programs, tele-behavioral health benefits, and center-of-excellence providers, and contracting with third parties to supplement existing vendors and broaden access.
But the fundamental problem remains that the United States hasa severe shortage of behavioral health providers, physicians and nurses that is projected to increase. According to the American Hospital Association, the United States will face a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2033, and health care facilities will need to hire 200,000 nurses per year to meet demand.
Outlook: Although there is bipartisan support for increasing the health care workforce, it remains to be seen if funding can be found to increase the number of health care providers that graduate every year.