Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, announced today that the Senate Health Committee has voted to advance the Geriatrics Workforce Improvement Act, legislation they introduced earlier this year to increase the number of geriatric health professionals to support our aging population. Their bill now heads to the floor for consideration by the full Senate.
This bipartisan bill would reauthorize the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) for the next five years and also reinstate the Geriatrics Academic Career Awards program (GACA).
“For Maine, with an aging population of more than a quarter million Mainers over the age of 65, and only 43 geriatricians, there is an acute need to quickly train more geriatric health professionals to meet the growing demand,” said Senator Collins. “Our bipartisan bill would ensure geriatric education for our current workforce, while optimizing resources to bolster academic careers in geriatrics, helping to attract the best and the brightest into the field. Together, GWEP and GACA would develop a high-quality geriatric workforce ready to provide care for Americans as we grow older.”
Currently, there are fewer than 7,300 physicians that are board-certified geriatricians. The United States needs to train more than 2,000 geriatricians per year over the next 11 years to reach the 30,000 geriatricians that will be needed by 2030. The number of health professionals and direct service workers trained to care for older adults must increase significantly in order to meet the needs of the growing population of Americans age 65 and older.
GWEP is the only federally funded program that exists to educate and train health care professionals in geriatrics. Today, there are 48 GWEP programs in 35 states, including a new GWEP program at the University of New England (UNE), which Senators Collins and Angus King (I-ME) worked to secure earlier this year. GWEP programs help integrate geriatrics into primary care, train providers to address the needs of older adults, deliver community-based programs, and provide Alzheimer’s disease education.
GACA programs, which were established in 1998, increase the number of faculty engaged in geriatric education by supporting health care professionals’ transition from clinical practice to academic roles. Following a restructuring of the geriatric workforce program, the GACA program needs to be formally reinstated.
The Geriatrics Workforce Improvement Act is supported by leading organizations in gerontology and geriatrics, including the Eldercare Workforce Alliance, the American Geriatrics Society, the Alzheimer’s Association Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, and the National Association of Geriatric Education Centers.
Earlier this year at a Senate Health Committee, Senator Collins, a member of the Committee, questioned specialists on the urgent need to grow our geriatric workforce and how an increased focus on geriatric care could also reduce unnecessary health care costs.