BOXER, KOHL, SANDERS, COLLINS REINTRODUCE BILL TO ADDRESS SHORTAGE OF HEALTH CARE WORKERS TO CARE FOR OLDER AMERICANS

Caring for an Aging America Act Will Encourage Health Care Workers to Serve Unique Needs of Seniors


WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) along with Senators Herb Kohl (D-WI), Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) today reintroduced the Caring for an Aging America Act, legislation aimed at addressing the critical shortages in doctors, nurses, social workers and other skilled health care workers who will be needed to care for a population of seniors that is projected to almost double over the next two decades.

Senator Boxer said, "We need to prepare our health care workforce now for a fast-growing population of older Americans to make sure that our mothers, fathers and grandparents get the quality care they deserve.  This legislation will provide incentives to encourage more doctors, nurses and other health care workers to dedicate their careers to serving the unique needs of our seniors." 

Senator Kohl said, " Our country needs to rapidly adapt our workforce and our health care system to meet the needs of an aging America. This policy would expand one of our most prestigious primary care grant programs - the National Health Service Corps - to train more geriatricians and gerontologists and it is my hope that this bill will be approved swiftly ."

Senator Sanders said, " At a time when our nation's elderly population is growing dramatically and will continue to in the years to come, it is critical for this country to take seriously the health care needs of older Americans.  We make sure our children are cared for by pediatricians, why should our choices be any different for the elderly?  That is why I am very proud to support the Caring for an Aging America Act, which will go a long way in encouraging more young doctors to specialize in geriatrics and to get them where they are needed most."

Senator Collins said, "The aging population of the United States is projected to almost double by 2030.   Even with the graying of our population, however, we currently have a shortage of health care professionals with training in geriatrics or gerontology.  The legislation we are introducing today will help to address the growing shortage of health care professionals who are trained to deal with the needs of older Americans by offering doctors, nurses, and other health professionals with training in geriatrics and gerontology access to the National Health Service Corps loan repayment program in exchange for a future commitment to work in an underserved area."

The population of older Americans is expected to almost double in number over the next twenty years, reaching about 72 million by 2030.  The Institute of Medicine, in the report Retooling for an Aging America, concluded that action must be taken now to prepare our health care workforce to better serve an increasing population of older Americans who will require unique, interdisciplinary team care.

The Caring for an Aging America Act would offer doctors, nurses, social workers and other health professionals with training in geriatrics and gerontology access to loan repayment in return for agreeing to work in underserved areas. 

This bill also builds on ongoing work by the Health Resources and Services Administration by opening up the National Health Service Corps to primary health care professionals with training in geriatrics specialties.  Unfortunately, right now, only four health professionals with geriatrics specialties are enrolled in the loan repayment program.

The Caring for an Aging America Act is backed by the Eldercare Workforce Alliance, a group of 28 national organizations that have joined together to address the immediate and future workforce crisis in caring for an aging America. The bill is being introduced in May, which is Older Americans Month.