Vice President Harris announces $1.5 billion to expand, diversify pool of doctors, nurses

The money will support the National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps. The White House is also investing money in graduate medical education.

Vice President Kamala Harris has announced a federal investment of $1.5 billion to help increase the number and diversity of the nation’s doctors and nurses.

The infusion of money from the coronavirus relief package will support the National Health Service Corps, Nurse Corps, and Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery programs, the White House said Monday. The programs offer scholarship and loan assistance to aspiring doctors and nurses. In return, recipients commit to working in underserved areas for a certain amount of time.

The money will support more than 22,700 providers in those federal programs, the largest number ever.

The White House projects a shortage of 60,000 doctors, dentists and psychiatrists over the next decade. The hope is that more people will pursue careers as doctors and nurses if they don’t have to take on crippling debt.

President Joe Biden’s administration also announced plans to invest $330 million in graduate medical education, utilizing American Rescue Plan money. The White House said the money would bolster the number of primary care physicians and dentists in under-served communities through residency programs in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and other areas.

The White House said developing a more diverse pool of doctors and nurses is a key step in addressing inequities in healthcare. Currently, 7% of the nation’s doctors or nurses identify as Black or Latino, even though 31% of all Americans identify as Black or Latino, the White House said in a release.

The White House said the investment announced Monday comes following the recommendation of the Presidential COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. More than 23.6 million Americans receive care from National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps clinicians.

The administration is also urging Congress to approve Biden’s $2 trillion social safety net package, which includes substantial investments in healthcare. The House of Representatives approved the package Friday, sending the measure to the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is hoping the Senate will pass Biden’s “Build Back Better” package before Christmas, CNBC reported. If the Senate makes changes to the package, which is highly likely, the legislation would have to return to the House for approval.

The legislation would offer more money for graduate medical education, funding for medical schools and expanded Medicare coverage. The bill would allow Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on prices for a limited number of drugs.