The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) today offered a ringing endorsement of the bipartisan Geriatrics Workforce Improvement Act (S. 2888), a proposal in the U.S. Senate to ensure communities across the U.S. have access to health professionals and other critical supports improving care for us all as we age. Introduced by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), the bill echoes similar bipartisan legislation proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2017. Now pending in each chamber of Congress, both proposals draw on considerable insights from the Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA), a collaborative comprised of more than 30 member organizations reflecting the diverse expertise of millions of professionals who support health in aging for older Americans and caregivers.
"The future we're working for at the AGS--a future where all older Americans have access to high-quality, person-centered care--begins by building the workforce to make that possible and by ensuring that workforce can connect us to the tools and supports we need as we age," notes AGS Chief Executive Officer Nancy E. Lundebjerg, MPA. "We commend Sens. Collins and Casey for working with us and our partners to make that future a reality with the Geriatrics Workforce Improvement Act. By standing behind this legislation, and a similar bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, we're committed to a future when all Americans can look forward to high-quality, person-centered care."
Building on growing momentum for the health workforce we need to contribute to our communities for as long as possible, the Geriatrics Workforce Improvement Act supports two critical objectives for geriatrics healthcare professionals, older adults, and millions of caregivers across America. First, the bill would formally establish and authorize funding for the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP), the only federal program designed to increase the number of health professionals with the skills and training to care for older people. The GWEP was launched in 2015 by the Health Resources and Services Administration with 44 three-year grants provided to awardees in 29 states where the workforce shortage is particularly pronounced. This important legislation will authorize GWEP funding of $45 million annually through 2023, allowing current and future awardees to:
- Educate and engage with family caregivers by training providers who can assess and address their care needs and preferences.
- Promote interdisciplinary 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.
The bill also would reestablish and enhance the Geriatric Academic Career Awards (GACAs), a previously funded program that enabled career development for hundreds of clinician-educators before it was eliminated in 2015 through a consolidation of several training programs. The bill will authorize GACA funding of six million annually through 2023. Some estimates suggest that, since 1998, original GACA recipients have trained as many as 65,000 colleagues (perhaps even more) in geriatrics expertise and have contributed to geriatrics education, research, and leadership across the U.S. Renewed GACA funding comes at a critical juncture for the field. Researchers reporting in 2017 on the impact of the GACA noted that, without a substantial increase in funding for geriatrics education and research, the U.S. risks "decimating a workforce that is essential to training health professionals on the unique healthcare needs of older adults."
"This Act provides support for the health professionals and clinician-educators engaged in geriatrics education and research," Lundebjerg concluded. "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 platforms play a critical role in developing the workforce we all need as we age."
The Geriatrics Workforce Improvement Act echoes priorities from sister legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2017 by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), and David McKinley (R-W.Va.). Their bipartisan Geriatrics Workforce and Caregiver Enhancement Act (H.R. 3713) was one of the first pieces of proposed legislation in recent history to stake a claim on best practices for geriatrics expertise, now reinforced in the U.S. Senate thanks to Sens. Collins and Casey. Support from constituents across the U.S. will be critical to ensuring lawmakers in both chambers of Congress recognize the importance of these legislative proposals, which now must be reconciled and voted upon before they become law. For more information on contacting your U.S. Senators and House Representative, visit the AGS Health in Aging Advocacy Center at cqrcengage.com/geriatrics.
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.