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ADEA Advocacy and Government Relations — May 2014

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Members of the ADEA Advocacy and Government Relations (AGR) portfolio attended several important Congressional hearings in April. On April 9, the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Care and Aging under the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) discussed “Addressing Primary Care Access and Workforce Challenges: Voices from the Field.” In the U.S. House of Representatives, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on April 2 held “Keeping College Within Reach: Meeting the Needs of Contemporary Students.”

In the Senate meeting, Rebecca Spitzgo, Associate Administrator at the Bureau of Health Professions in the Health Resources and Services Administration, noted that the President’s budget included $10 million for a new Clinical Training in Interprofessional Practice program. This program will support community-based clinical training in interprofessional, team-based care to increase the capacity of primary health care teams to deliver quality, coordinated care and efficient care to patients, families and communities.

Ms. Spitzgo also made the point that African-American and Hispanic physicians are represented in greater percentages among the ranks of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) than they are among the national physician workforce. At the end of her testimony, Ms. Spitzgo briefly mentioned the support for integration of oral health into primary care by supporting (1) expansion of the dental workforce training and education programs and (2) state development and implementation of programs to address dental workforce needs in underserved communities.

Subcommittee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) asked if the investment in community health centers was working and how much more might be required. Ms. Spitzgo replied that the number of serving NHSC practitioners has doubled since 2008 and that there is sufficient interest so that all who apply can be placed. Ms. Spitzgo went on to identify two main reasons for the sustained NHSC interest. First, there is a loan repayment program that will pay $50,000 toward student loan debt each year for two years if they practice in a Health Professions Shortage Area, and those clinicians can serve additional years until their loans are paid off. Second, scholarships are available for pre-doctoral candidates for medical school with a four-year commitment.

HELP subcommittee members present were Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chairman; Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Ranking Member; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT).

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce meeting Chairman, Rep. John Kline (R-MN), opened the hearing by stating that this was the 14th and probably last hearing in preparation for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. He noted that today’s contemporary college students have families, jobs and financial independence. The goal in attending college for many of these contemporary college students is to quickly and affordably gain new skills to compete in jobs and new career opportunities.

Schools are responding by offering assessments for prior learning and embracing technology. Schools are engaging in articulation agreements with other schools to make it easier to transfer credits between institutions. Some states are expanding their articulation agreements to include bordering states and private institutions.

The subject of proposed gainful employment rules came up in Rep. Matt Salmon’s (R-AZ) and Rep. Marcia Fudge’s (D-OH) questioning. Dr. George A. Pruitt, President of Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, NJ, noted that only 27% of undergraduate students were training for specific jobs.

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) inquired about how to increase the graduation rate for underrepresented populations. Mr. Stan Jones, President of Complete College America in Indianapolis, IN, stated that many students are being lost in remediation, remarking that making certain humanities classes prerequisites is counterproductive and that co-requisite should be the norm.

For a summary of recent federal legislative and regulatory news about oral health, dental education and dental research, read the ADEA Washington Update.

Keep up with recent state legislative and regulatory news about oral health, dental education and dental research in your state with the ADEA State Update.