The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) today commended the U.S. Senate for supporting critical efforts to expand geriatrics expertise through the more than $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package (S. 3548), which now heads to the House of Representatives for a vote expected by Friday. With support from Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), the Senate stimulus bill includes an earlier dedicated proposal championed by both lawmakers to reauthorize the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) and the Geriatrics Academic Career Awards (GACAs).
"Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants, social workers, and all our geriatrics experts are vital--not just to the U.S. economy but also to our health, safety, and independence, which make our economy what it is," noted AGS CEO Nancy E. Lundebjerg, MPA. "As we continue to review the stimulus proposal in detail, we applaud Senators Casey and Collins for helping prioritize long-term solutions in this rapid response to COVID-19."
The proposals now included in the COVID-19 package incorporate language from the earlier proposed Title VII Health Care Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2019 (S. 2997). While AGS experts remain pleased to see the GWEPs and GACAs reauthorized, they did express concern that the final authorizing level of $40.7 million could compromise the future success of both programs. The AGS continues to advocate for increased funding totaling $51 million, which would do much to close the current geographic and demographic gaps in geriatrics workforce training.
Powered by grantees working on local solutions to workforce shortages across the U.S., the GWEPs educate and engage the broader frontline workforce and family caregivers, and focus on opportunities to improve the quality of care delivered to older adults. And as a program rooted in sustaining geriatrics education, the GACAs represent an essential complement to the GWEP. By supporting time for professional development and instructional advancement, the GACAs ensure we can equip early career clinician-educators to become leaders in geriatrics training and research.
As Lundebjerg summarizes: "The GWEP provides support for the current transformation of primary care, while the GACA develops the next generation of innovators to improve care outcomes and care delivery. Together, these programs play a critical role in developing the workforce we all need as we age."
Across both these efforts, the current coronavirus stimulus plan would authorize funding of $40.7 million annually through 2024. This would allow current and future GWEP and GACA awardees to:
- Educate and engage with family caregivers by training providers who can assess and address their care needs and preferences.
- Promote interprofessional team-based care by transforming clinical training environments to integrate geriatrics and primary care delivery systems.
- Improve the quality of care delivered to older adults by providing education to families and caregivers on critical care challenges such as Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.
- Support clinician-educators engaged in geriatrics education and research to develop the next generation of innovators to improve care outcomes and care delivery.
Both the legislative language itself and the individual programs it supports draw considerable insight from the Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA), a collaborative comprised of more than 30 member organizations co-convened by the AGS and the Gerontological Society of America (GSA). Like EWA, the coronavirus stimulus package now reflects the diverse expertise of millions of health professionals who support older Americans--and understand the best path forward for sustaining that momentum.
The AGS expressed gratitude for the leadership and commitment of Senators Casey and Collins (R-Maine), as well as Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Michael Burgess (R-Texas), who spearheaded similar legislation in the House of Representatives to ensure communities across the U.S. have access to health professionals and other critical supports improving care for us all as we age.
About the American Geriatrics Society
Founded in 1942, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) is a nationwide, not-for-profit society of geriatrics healthcare professionals that has--for 75 years--worked to improve the health, independence, and quality of life of older people. Its nearly 6,000 members include geriatricians, geriatric nurses, social workers, family practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, and internists. The Society provides leadership to healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the public by implementing and advocating for programs in patient care, research, professional and public education, and public policy. For more information, visit AmericanGeriatrics.org.