As is typical at the start of a new Congress, committee chairs outlined ambitious agendas for their committees. Achieving the entirety of these agendas within the two years of this Congress will certainly be a challenge. As the saying goes, every 1,000-mile journey begins with the first step. Now three months into the 118th Congress, we are beginning to get a sense of which issues Congress and its committees will prioritize.
For the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, it’s clear that one of its first priorities will be to address health care workforce challenges. In February, the Committee held a hearing on this topic and immediately followed up the hearing with a request for information (RFI) to solicit input from public stakeholders on these challenges.
ACAAI submitted a response to this RFI that highlights the top workforce challenges allergy practices face and recommended solutions to these issues. The College’s response was organized into three categories:
- administrative burdens
- Medicare reimbursement
- training the next generation of the health care workforce
The Advocacy Council highlighted the need to strengthen our existing health care workforce. Administrative burdens are the top contributor to burnout that causes physicians and nonphysician providers (NPP) to leave the clinical workforce early. The U.S. Surgeon General acknowledged these challenges in a recent Advisory on Addressing Health Worker Burnout. These administrative burdens include complex value-based payment programs, overzealous prior authorization requirements from health plans and the No Surprises Act.
Similar to administrative burdens, declining Medicare reimbursement rates is another reason why health care professionals leave the workforce early. Our response included data from MedPAC that illustrates how Medicare reimbursement has lagged far behind health care inflation as measured by the Medicare Economic Index (MEI). This, combined with other policies that reduce Medicare reimbursements, create financial pressures on medical practices that can cause clinicians to leave the workforce early.
Graduate Medical Education
Lastly, our response urges Congress to support training for the next generation of our health care workforce. Increasing Federal funding for the Graduate Medical Education (GME) program is the most influential way Congress can grow our physician workforce to address physician shortages. Our response emphasized the importance of ensuring GME-funded residency positions are reserved for domestic medical students. The response also discusses how the medical workforce must be viewed as “care teams” of multiple providers. Increasing the number of physicians can only help so much if the nurses, physician assistants, and other NPPs we rely on are not proportionally increased. We recommend that Congress also support growing the NPP workforce that is an integral part of physician practices.
Increasing funding for graduate medical education has been a long-time advocacy priority for the College.
The deadline to submit responses to the Committee was March 20. The Committee is now reviewing submissions and intends to use the responses to inform legislation on this topic. It is not yet clear exactly how the Committee will approach this very broad topic. The College will monitor the Committee’s work and continue to advocate for our recommendations on how to strengthen the health care workforce in a way that best helps allergy practices.
The Advocacy Council – ADVOCATING FOR ALLERGISTS AND THEIR PATIENTS.