Legislation Reintroduced to Strengthen the Workforce to Respond to the Opioid Epidemic
May 03, 2019
Building on sustained efforts at the federal level to address the opioid epidemic over the last two Congressional sessions, federal lawmakers reinitiated a bipartisan effort to strengthen the health care workforce’s ability to respond to the opioid crisis by incentivizing the training of more addiction specialists.
U.S. House Representatives Brad Schneider (D-IL), Susan W. Brooks (R-IN), Annie Kuster (D-NH), and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) introduced bipartisan legislation to train more doctors equipped to combat the opioid epidemic and importantly, help alleviate the doctor shortage.
Specifically, H.R. 2439, the Opioid Workforce Act of 2019, the bill would provide Medicare support for an additional 1,000 graduate medical education positions over the next five years in hospitals that have, or are in the process of establishing, accredited residency programs in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, or pain management.
Additional support for residency slots would fortify the ability of hospitals to train more physicians who are specialized to treat patients with substance use disorders and chronic pain.
The latest data outlining physician supply and demand projections warns of a shortfall of between 46,900 and 121,900 physicians by 2032, including significant shortages in both primary care and specialty categories. This shortage is particularly acute in the field of addiction medicine and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment.
In the face of the opioid epidemic and behavioral health challenges confronting our nation—and particularly impacting Pennsylvania—the dedication to strengthening our health care workforce is more important than ever. This targeted legislation is an important step.
The American Hospital Association issued a letter of support for the legislation stating “new slots would constitute a major step toward increasing access to SUD treatment for communities in need.”
In addition to supporting this targeted effort, Pennsylvania hospitals have advocated for legislation that would provide Medicare support for an additional 3,000 residency positions each year for five years in order to help stem looming physician shortages. Specifically, S. 348 / H.R. 1763, the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019, would increase the number of Medicare direct graduate medical education (DGME) and indirect medical education (IME) slots by a total of 15,000 nationwide from 2019 to 2023.
HAP will work with the Pennsylvania delegation to build support for both the Resident Physician Shortage Act and the Opioid Workforce Act and increase federal support for residency training.
Please contact Laura Stevens Kent, HAPs vice president, federal advocacy, with questions pertaining to federal policy addressing the opioid epidemic and in support of the health care workforce.