Harris announces $1.5B plan to fight doctor shortage

Kamala Harris

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks about the recently signed infrastructure law will benefit Ohioans after touring the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Local 189 Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

(The Hill) — Vice President Harris on Monday announced that the Biden administration would invest $1.5 billion from the coronavirus relief law into supporting the U.S. health care workforce with an eye toward underserved communities.

The investment is designed to address the shortage of doctors, nurses and behavioral health providers in minority communities, rural areas and other underserved communities by providing additional funding for programs that address health workforce shortages.

“These awards are supporting the National Health Service Corps, Nurse Corps, and Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery programs,” the White House said in an announcement. “These programs address workforce shortages and health disparities by providing scholarship and loan repayment funding for health care students and professionals, in exchange for a service commitment in hard-hit and high-risk communities.

“Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, this funding will support over 22,700 providers — the largest field strength in history for these programs and a record number of skilled doctors, dentists, nurses, and behavioral health providers committed to working in underserved communities during a moment when we need them the most,” the announcement continued.

The White House said that the investments are a response to recommendations of the White House COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, which submitted a final report on Nov. 10.

In tandem with that release, administration officials announced earlier this month that they would direct $785 million to support organizations building confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and diversify the health workforce to combat the coronavirus in communities of color, rural areas, low-income populations and those with disabilities.

On Monday, Harris is also announcing plans to start awarding $330 million in funding from President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, which he signed into law in March, to the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education to help expand the number of primary care physicians and dentists in underserved communities.

Harris will formally announce the new investments during a speech alongside Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and Luis Padilla, who is the associate administrator for health workforce at the Health Resources and Services Administration and the director of the National Health Service Corps, a White House official said.

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