HHS Pledges $55.5 Million in Grants to Improve the U.S. Health Care Workforce

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a press release on December 5, 2013, stating that HHS will be allotting $55.5 million in funding to strengthen the U.S. health care workforce. The funding, which is to be awarded in the form of grants, will be used not only to grow the size of the U.S. health care workforce, but to also create better training for health care professionals. Mary K. Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N., an administrator at HHS, noted that, “these grants cover a wide spectrum of health workforce needs. From diversity to dentistry – all are critical to achieving a skilled workforce now and in the future.”

The release specifies that most of the HHS funding will be used to develop the nation’s nursing workforce by increasing nurse faculty, improving diversity, increasing nurse anesthetist traineeships, promoting collaborative practice, and supporting advanced education. Secretary Sebelius noted that, “these grants and the many training programs they support have a real impact by helping to create innovative care delivery models and improving access to high-quality care,” according to the release.

The newly awarded funding from HHS comes after the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which seeks, in part, to improve the access and delivery of health care services for all, but especially “low income, underserved, uninsured, minority, health disparity, and rural populations.” This is reflected in HHS’s plans, as grants have also been awarded to better serve vulnerable populations within the U.S., to increase preventive medicine and public health, and to conduct further research to better understand local and nationwide health and dental workforce needs and shortages.

HHS will also be requiring states to “match at least 40 percent” of the grant funding or provide equal support. This requirement appears to be in furtherance of Section 5102 of the PPACA, which provides for a workforce development grant program that allows State partnerships to establish development strategies for the health care workforce at the State and local levels.