Senators Collins, Casey Introduce Legislation to Address Critical Shortage of Geriatric Health Professionals
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.
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 to increase the number of geriatric health professionals and direct service workers to support our aging population. This bipartisan legislation would reauthorize the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) at $45 million per year over the next five years and also reinstate the Geriatric Academic Career Awards program (GACA) at $6 million per year.
“The United States is facing a critical shortage of geriatric health professionals and direct service workers to support our aging population. We currently need 20,000 geriatricians to meet the needs of older Americans, yet there are fewer than 7,300. If we remain on our current trajectory, this shortfall will only grow worse,” said Senator Collins. “Together, GWEP and GACA would develop a high-quality geriatric workforce ready to provide care for Americans as we grow older. I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan legislation that would improve geriatric education for our current workforce, while optimizing resources to bolster academic careers in geriatrics. ”
“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.”
By 2035, the number of Americans 65 and older will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history. With the aging population, one in four Americans will have multiple chronic conditions, which increases the complexity of care.
Fewer than 7,300 of our nation’s nearly one million physicians are currently 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. We must also significantly increase the number of health professionals and direct service workers trained to care for older adults.
GWEP is the only federally funded program that exists to educate and train health care professionals in geriatrics. Today there are 44 geriatric workforce enhancement programs or GWEPs in 29 states. GWEP sites include 25 schools of medicine, ten 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.
In a letter in support of the Geriatric Workforce Improvement Act, the Eldercare Workforce Alliance, a group of 31 national groups focused on the immediate and future needs of the geriatrics workforce, wrote that their organizations are “…greatly appreciative for the leadership and hard work of Sen. Collins and Sen. Casey for the Geriatrics Workforce Improvement Act… These programs are of vital importance to this country as they equip the primary care workforce and family caregivers with the knowledge and skills to care for older adults and build community networks to address gaps in health care for seniors, especially around Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia.”
In addition, the National Association for Geriatric Education wrote that “this authorization and related funding is needed for the development of a health care workforce specifically trained to care for older adults and to support their family caregivers.