Independent Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, announced on Thursday that he had agreed, after weeks of negotiations, with Republican Senator from Kansas, Roger Marshall, to introduce a bill to confront the primary care crisis in the United States, which has left millions of people across the country without assistance. Access to critical medical care.
Sanders, who is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a statement that the new legislation represents a “historic” effort to expand primary care and reduce the massive shortage of nurses and doctors in the United States. Countries.joined.
According to a report released earlier this year by the National Association of Community Health Centers, more than 100 million people in the United States face difficulties accessing primary care, which is often the first point of contact for patients seeking care for health problems.
Compared with other countries in the developed world, the United States invests little in primary care, despite spending more on health care overall.
“It is unacceptable that millions of Americans across our country do not have access to high-quality, affordable primary care and cannot get the health care they need when they need it,” the Vermont senator said.
He added, “Major medical organizations realize that our investment in primary care is completely insufficient. “They realize that focusing on disease prevention and providing more Americans with a medical home rather than relying on expensive emergency rooms for primary care will not only save lives and human suffering, it will save money.”
The new bipartisan legislation includes nearly $6 billion in mandatory annual funding for community health centers over the next three years.
If Congress does not act by the end of the month, community health centers, which provide primary care to tens of millions of vulnerable Americans, will face severe funding cuts.
The Sanders-Marshall legislation also includes funding that would financially support about 2,000 primary care doctors over the next decade.
Additionally, the bill would increase funding for the National Health Service to support scholarships and debt relief for doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.
Recent data suggests that the United States could face a shortage of up to 124,000 doctors over the next decade. “The proportion of American doctors in adult primary care has been declining for years and now hovers around 25%, a tipping point after which many Americans will no longer be able to find a primary care doctor,” Elizabeth Rosenthal of KFF Health News noted last week. “
The nursing shortage is also serious and may soon get worse. A study published earlier this year estimated that about 100,000 registered nurses in the United States have left their jobs in the past two years (mostly due to pandemic-related stress) and that more than 610,000 more intend to leave their jobs in the next four years.
The Sanders and Marshall legislation, which will be introduced in the Senate HELP Committee on Sept. 21, would provide $1.2 billion in grants to public universities and community colleges with the goal of increasing the number of students enrolled in registered nursing programs.
Marshall, the ranking Republican on HELP’s Primary Health and Retirement Security Subcommittee, said in a statement that the new bill “recognizes and addresses challenges facing our health care industry, such as a shortage of nurses and doctors.” To enhance the workforce in a fiscally responsible manner.
A statement from Senator Sanders’ office said the legislation “will be paid for entirely by combating massive waste, fraud, and abuse in the health care system, making it easier for patients to access low-cost generic medications, and holding people accountable.” For pharmacy benefits managers, among others. Other provisions.”
Speaking before the Senate on Thursday, Sanders noted that “in Vermont and across this country, our employees often have to wait months for a doctor’s appointment and, in some cases, have to travel very long distances to get an appointment.” The medical care they need.”
“It is absolutely crazy that millions of Americans with non-emergency health care needs receive their primary care in a hospital emergency room,” Sanders said.
(With information from agencies)
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