Senators Collins, Casey Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Increase Number of Geriatric Doctors, Nurses, and Other Health Professionals
30,000 geriatricians will be needed by 2030
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Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, introduced the Geriatrics Workforce Improvement Act, bipartisan legislation to increase the number of geriatric health professionals and direct service workers to support our aging population. This bill would reauthorize the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) at $45 million per year over the next five years and also reinstate the Geriatrics Academic Career Awards program (GACA) at $6 million per year. Earlier this afternoon, Senator Collins delivered remarks from the Senate floor today urging her colleagues to support the bill.
“For Maine, with an aging population of more than a quarter million Mainers over the age of 65, and only 40 geriatricians, there is an acute need to quickly train more geriatric health professionals and direct service workers to meet the growing demand,” said Chairman Collins. “I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan legislation that would ensure geriatric education for our current workforce, while optimizing resources to bolster academic careers in geriatrics, helping to attract the best and the brightest into the field. Together, GWEP and GACA would develop a high-quality geriatric workforce ready to provide care for Americans as we grow older.”
“As the baby boomer population ages, 98 million Americans will be age 65 and older by 2060. Many in this population will live well into their 90s and may require complex and costly care,” said Senator Casey. “Our doctors, nurses, home health workers, and family caregivers should have the knowledge and skill to care for our aging population. The Geriatrics Workforce Improvement Act would help grow and train the next generation of geriatric health care providers to meet the needs of older adults.”
"There continues to be severe shortages of a wide range of health care professionals and caregivers trained in the provision of specialized geriatric care. No where is this scarcity in the health services workforce more apparent than in small towns and rural communities all across America. Senator Collins' extraordinary leadership in advancing The Geriatrics Workforce Improvement Act stands to help rectify this situation by responding to the call for such services by millions of aging Americans," said Lenard Kaye, Director of the University of Maine Center on Aging.
Currently, there are fewer than 7,300 physicians that are board-certified geriatricians. The United States needs to train 1,600 geriatricians per year over the next 12 years to reach the 30,000 geriatricians that will be needed by 2030. The number of health professionals and direct service workers trained to care for older adults must increase significantly in order to meet the needs of the growing population of Americans age 65 and older.
GWEP is the only federally funded program that exists to educate and train health care professionals in geriatrics. Today there are 44 GWEP programs in 29 states, which include 25 schools of medicine, 10 schools of nursing, five health care facilities, two schools of allied health, a school of social work, and a certified nurse assistant program. GWEP programs help integrate geriatrics into primary care, train providers to address the needs of older adults, deliver community-based programs, and provide Alzheimer’s disease education.
GACA programs, which were established in 1998, increase the number of faculty engaged in geriatric education by supporting health care professionals’ transition from clinical practice to academic roles. Following a restructuring of the geriatric workforce program, GACA has gone unfunded since 2015.
The Geriatrics Workforce Improvement Act is supported by leading organizations in gerontology and geriatrics, including the Eldercare Workforce Alliance, the American Geriatrics Society, the Alzheimer’s Association Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, and the National Association of Geriatric Education Centers.