On January 31, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced S.299 – the Geriatric Workforce Improvement Act. This legislation would address the widening gap between the number of healthcare providers educated and trained to meet the special needs of people as they age and the rapidly growing population of people aged 65 and over.
The bill would reauthorize the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) for another five years, with authorized funding increased to $45 million per year. This program provides grants to geriatric education centers to educate and train doctors, nurses, social workers, and other health care professionals in the care and treatment of older people who often have a variety of chronic health conditions and who may not respond to treatments in the same ways that younger people do.
In addition, the bill would revive the Geriatrics Academic Career Awards (GACA) program, which funds training for clinician educators. As the baby boom generation reaches retirement age, there is a growing scarcity of professionals who can educate and train the health care professionals who will care for older people in the coming decades.
The legislation has been referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which must approve the measure before it can come to the Senate floor for a vote. We are urging senators to sign onto the bill as cosponsors in order to demonstrate its traction on Capitol Hill and move it forward.
A strong workforce is the greatest challenge facing long-term services and supports providers; we will continue pushing for passage of this and other measures to address it.