Geriatric Workforce Legislation Passes the House

Legislation | July 25, 2018 | by Barbara Gay

On July 23, 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3728, the Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency and Readiness (EMPOWER) Act. The legislation reauthorizes federal health professions workforce programs, including education and training in geriatrics. 

The bill continues the program under which health professions schools can receive grants to establish and operate geriatrics workforce enhancement programs (GWEPs). These programs integrate geriatrics with primary care training and education and seek to maximize family and patient engagement. The program seeks to educate primary healthcare providers on the special needs of older patients and encourages collaboration with other community partners to ensure that older people receive essential services.

Special focus areas for the program include assessment of individual preferences of older people and their families at the individual, community, and population levels; educating family members on caring for individuals with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias; and creating community-based programs to help older people and their families maintain optimal health. \

Priority for grant awards under this bill will be given to programs to benefit rural or underserved populations of older people; to integrate behavioral health services with primary care; to train healthcare providers across care settings, including nursing homes and home- and community-based services; and to train healthcare workers in social determinants of health.

The EMPOWER Act also revives Geriatric Academic Career Awards to support the training of health care professionals who can provide geriatric clinical education, including training of interprofessional provider teams.

Because of budget restrictions under which the House is operating, the bill provides overall funding of $40.7 million, below the $51 million level for which we and other members of the Eldercare Workforce Alliance have been advocating.

The legislation now moves to the U.S. Senate, where Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA) have introduced similar legislation, S. 2888. LeadingAge will continue advocating for enactment of this vital eldercare workforce legislation and for increased funding for it.