AGS Commends Bipartisan Leaders on Bringing Workforce Training Legislation Even Closer to Becoming Law

New York (July 17, 2019)—The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) again pledged enthusiastic support for the Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency and Readiness (EMPOWER) for Health Act of 2019 (H.R. 2781). H.R. 2781 took a significant step toward becoming law today following an approval of the legislation’s language by the full House Energy & Commerce Committee Wednesday evening. The measure now moves to the House floor for consideration, hopefully before Congress breaks for its summer recess in August.

Introduced by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Michael Burgess (R-TX) earlier this year, the bill reauthorizes workforce training programs under Title VII of the Public Health Service Act. Among these initiatives are the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) and the Geriatrics Academic Career Awards (GACAs), both critical to the care all Americans need as our country continues to age.

The GWEPs educate and engage the broader frontline workforce and family caregivers, and focus on opportunities to improve the quality of care delivered to older adults—particularly in underserved and rural areas. The GACAs represent an essential complement to the GWEP. Grounded in health professions education, GACAs ensure we can equip early career clinician-educators to become leaders in geriatrics training and research.

The EMPOWER for Health Act would authorize funding of $51 million annually through 2024, 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 interprofessional 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.
  • Support clinician-educators engaged in geriatrics education and research to develop the next generation of innovators to improve care outcomes and care delivery.

Through a legislative process known as “markup,” the House Committee on Energy & Commerce reviewed and unanimously approved the bill’s language and proposals. The Subcommittee on Health completed an initial review of the bill—also approved unanimously by voice vote—on Thursday of last week.

“Representatives Schakowsky and Burgess introduced an incredibly strong draft with H.R. 2781, in large part because they worked so collaboratively with expert partners like the AGS,” noted AGS Chief Executive Officer Nancy Lundebjerg, MPA. “We commend them for their support of the geriatrics workforce training programs and for their ongoing efforts to improve care of older Americans.”

Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 16, the EMPOWER for Health Act draws considerable insights from the Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA), a collaborative comprised of more than 30 member organizations co-convened by the AGS. Like EWA itself, the EMPOWER for Health Act under consideration by the Health Subcommittee now reflects the diverse expertise of millions of health professionals who support older Americans.

“The future we’re working for at the AGS—a future when 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,” concluded Lundebjerg, MPA. “We look forward to a very-near future when the EMPOWER for Health Act can make that possible.”

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 more than 75 years—worked to improve the health, independence, and quality of life of older people. Our 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.