Washington, D.C. — Health Subcommittee Republican Leader Brett Guthrie (R-KY) delivered the following remarks in a Health Subcommittee Hearing entitled, “Caring for America: Legislation to Support Patients, Caregivers, and Providers.”
Excerpts of remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Now more than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our country is facing severe workforce shortages and the health care industry is no exception. Since the beginning of the pandemic, health care workers have stepped up to the plate and have been on the front lines fighting against this terrible virus.
“I want to take a moment and thank each and every health care worker for their selfless attitude as you continue to go to work and help our nation at a crucial time in history.
“I think we all agree on the importance of increasing recruitment and retention in our nation’s health care workforce. However, I am very concerned about the impact of President Biden’s federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate on the workforce.
“Numerous Kentuckians have told me that the anticipated Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule is leading to many people to quit their jobs. There is confusion – the mandates were announced months ago, but the rules are not yet released. Many questions remain including- How will someone get an exemption? Will prior infection count? And is testing an alternative to comply?
THE PUBLIC HEALTH WORKFORCE LOAN REPAYMENT ACT
“Another hurdle in attracting and retaining people to the health care workforce is the high cost of obtaining a medical degree. I continually hear from constituents that the reason for not pursuing a degree or certificate in health care is due to the financial burden of tuition costs. To help alleviate this stress, I introduced the Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Act alongside Representatives Eshoo, Burgess, and Crow.
“This bipartisan bill would establish the Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Program to promote the recruitment of public health professionals at local, state, and tribal public health agencies. I believe a strong public health infrastructure starts with the health professionals at its core.
Additionally, we need to continue to encourage private entities and states to create innovative solutions in order to tackle staffing shortages in the health care field.
“For example, one of the most vital health needs confronting Kentucky is the shortage of physicians, particularly primary care doctors serving in community settings. I am proud to represent the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine- Bowling Green campus in my district and hometown, which aims to address this critical need. Launched in 2018, the Bowling Green Campus has increased the size of the UK College of Medicine by 120 students — a 20 percent increase. The school provides students two opportunities to attain a combined degree- whether a MD/MPH or MD/MBA.
“Another great example is the new Medical College of Georgia 3+ program that Dr. Keels will discuss today.
“Arkansas, Maryland, and Nebraska have also launched new recruitment and retention programs. For example, Arkansas recently created their first graduate registered nurse apprenticeship program and Nebraska announced new online resources to connect nurses with health care facilities with staffing needs. As co-chair of the Congressional Apprenticeship Caucus, I have been a strong supporter of apprenticeships and believe they are a great avenue for workers and employers.
“Lastly, as we discuss these health bills before us today, we need to keep in mind that Congress has already authorized $5.9 trillion in funding to provide COVID-19 assistance and relief for Americans, including money intended to address workforce shortages in health care.
“President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law in March of 2021, provided significant mandatory funding for workforce initiatives, including $7.6 billion for the public health workforce. However, many states like my home state of Kentucky have yet to receive much of this funding. We need to ensure the remaining funds that have not been disbursed are being spent effectively and take stock of that spending.”