HHS Awards $320 Million to Expand Primary Care Workforce

Grants are part of Affordable Care Act?s Prevention and Public Health Fund and other initiatives.

September 29, 2010

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has announced $320 million in grants under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to strengthen the health care workforce.  Of those grants, $253 million will go to improve and expand the primary care workforce under the Prevention and Public Health Fund of the Affordable Care Act.  Another $67 million in Health Profession Opportunity Grants will provide low-income individuals with education, training and supportive services that will help them prepare to enter and advance in careers in the healthcare sector.

"Chronic diseases, most of which are preventable, are one of the main reasons health care costs have soared over the past several decades," said Secretary Sebelius.  "Investing in our primary care workforce will strengthen the role that wellness and prevention play in our health care system.  With these grants, Americans from all backgrounds will have new opportunities to enter the health care workforce." 

Prevention and Public Health Fund Workforce Grants

The $253 million in Prevention and Public Health Fund grants are awarded under six health professions programs administered by HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).  The programs are designed to build the primary care workforce and provide community-based prevention.  States will receive funding to support comprehensive workforce planning and implementation strategies that best address local current and projected workforce shortages. 

"These grants are the most comprehensive yet in addressing our nation's shortage of key health professionals," said Mary K. Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N., administrator of HRSA.  "They will provide much-needed support for increasing primary care capacity by expanding training programs for primary care providers, increasing access to patient care clinics, strengthening state-level workforce planning and providing training for personal home health care aides.  All are vital to our future healthcare workforce."

Primary Care Residency Expansion (PCRE) - $167.3 million

The PCRE program funds 82 accredited primary care residency training programs to increase the number of residents trained in general pediatrics, general internal medicine, and family medicine.  Grantees will use the 5-year grant to provide stipend support for new enrollees in 3-year primary care residency training programs.  By 2015, the program will support the training of 889 new primary care residents over the number currently being trained and more than 500 of these residents will have completed their training. 

Expansion of Physician Assistant Training (EPAT) - $30.1 million

Access to primary care also improves with an expanded primary care physician assistant workforce. The EPAT program will fund 28 primary care physician assistant training programs for 5 years.  The program funds student stipends of $22,000 per student per year, for 2 years.  It is projected that more than 700 physician assistants will receive funding with more than 600 fully trained by 2015.

Advanced Nursing Education Expansion (ANEE) - $31 million

The ANEE program will provide $31 million in funds to 26 schools of nursing to increase full-time enrollment in primary care nurse practitioner (NP) and nurse midwife (NMW) programs.  It is projected that over 1,300 primary care nursing stipends will be supported through this 5-year program.  By providing a stipend of $22,000 per student per year for up to 2 years, this funding aims to reduce the financial burden of attending school full-time and to accelerate graduation rates to increase the number of advanced practice nurses. Grantees project that 600 NPs and NMWs in total will be fully trained by 2015.

Nurse Managed Health Clinics (NMHC) - $14.8 million

This program will fund 10 grantees for 3 years to operate NMHCs to provide primary care.  A NMHC is a nurse-practice arrangement, managed by advanced practice nurses, that provides primary care or wellness services to underserved or vulnerable populations and that is associated with a school, college, university or department of nursing, federally qualified health center, or independent nonprofit health or social services agency. Clinics serve as valuable clinical training sites for students in primary care, and also enhance nursing practice by increasing the number of clinical teaching sites for interdisciplinary primary and community health students. Funding will provide access to primary care for approximately 94,000 patients and training for more than 900 advanced practice nurses. 

State Health Workforce Development - $5.6 million

Twenty-six (26) states will receive funding to begin comprehensive health care workforce planning or implementation.  Planning grants (limited to one year and $150,000 plus 15 percent matching funds) assess a state's current health workforce and include activities such as gathering and analyzing data, examining current resources, policies and practices, and identifying ways to remove barriers at state and local levels.  Implementation grants (limited to 2 years with 25 percent matching funds) allow states to convene stakeholders at the state and regional levels to develop and implement development plans that address workforce needs.  These activities are expected to result in a 10 to 25 percent increase in the primary care health workforce over a 10-year period.

Personal and Home Care Aide State Training (PHCAST) - $4.2 million

Direct care workers provide an estimated 70 to 80 percent of the paid hands-on long-term care and personal assistance to Americans who are elderly, or living with disabilities or other chronic conditions. The PHCAST program is a demonstration project that supports states in developing and evaluating a competency-based uniform curriculum to train qualified personal and home care aides.  Personal and home care aides (PHCAs) are projected to be the fourth fastest growing direct care occupation in the United States between 2008 and 2018.  The six state grantees participating in the 3-year project anticipate that they will train over 5,100 PHCAs by 2013.

Prevention and Public Health Fund workforce grant award tables by state are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2010pres/09b/state_charts.html.

Health Profession Opportunity Grants

The Health Profession Opportunity Grants, administered by the Administration for Children and Families' Office of Family Assistance, will provide 32 grants to entities in 23 states. These grants will provide low-income individuals with successful training programs for a variety of healthcare professions, including: home care aides, certified nursing assistants, medical assistants, pharmacy technicians, emergency medical technicians, licensed vocational nurses, registered nurses, dental assistants, and health information technicians. Grantees will also provide additional supportive services such as transportation, dependent care, and temporary housing.   A broad range of entities will receive grants, including five Native American and tribal organizations as well as non-profit organization, state and local governments, and community colleges.

"The absence of qualified workers in the healthcare field threatens the quality and availability of medical care, and the economic stability and growth potential of local communities," said David A. Hansell, acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families. "The training initiatives will provide low-income families the opportunity for economic independence and a better life for themselves and their children while helping to strengthen our health care workforce." 

"TANF recipients and other low-income individuals want to succeed in the workplace but sometimes lack the skills to do so," said Earl Johnson, director for the Office of Family Assistance. "The Health Profession Opportunity Grants will offer quality training and an opportunity to enter a dynamic job sector with real opportunities for career advancement."

Health Profession Opportunity Grants award tables by state are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2010pres/09d/state_charts.html.

For more information on how the Affordable Care Act is investing in the health care workforce, go to www.HealthCare.gov.  For more information on HRSA's health professions programs, go to bhpr.hrsa.gov. For more information on the Office of Family Assistance visit http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/.