Experts name 9 ways to fix healthcare workforce shortage

The United States needs to invest more in primary care providers – one of nine ways to increase the healthcare workforce, according to the Center for American Progress.

In a new report released Thursday, Ellen-Marie Whelan and Daniel Derksen of the Center for American Progress say the nation should also raise Medicare and Medicaid payments to primary care physicians.

"Our nation already suffers from shortages of a range of health professionals, made worse by geographic maldistribution," they said. "The shortages are expected to worsen as 78 million baby boomers begin to hit retirement age in 2011 and require more care for chronic illnesses, and many predict there will be a shortage of up to 200,000 physicians and 1 million nurses by 2020."

According to Whelan and Derksen, the nation invests in training health professionals in two categories. The first and largest is $12 billion each year in Medicare and Medicaid funding for physician residency programs at teaching hospitals. The second category is a combination of health workforce programs administered by the Health Services Resource Administration, which was funded last year at just more than $500 million.

Whelan and Derksen recommend that any healthcare reform package passed by Congress include the following  actions:

  • Create a national healthcare workforce commission.

  • Change Medicare funding to support graduate nursing education.

  • Reform Medicare and Medicaid payments to better reward primary care.

  • Increase funding of the National Health Service Corps.

  • Target shortage areas and those who serve underserved communities.

  • Increase federal funding to promote workforce diversity.

  • Allow federal funding of physician training to include community-based sites.

  • Provide new funding for community-based physician training.

  • Change the content of health professional training.

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