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AACOM Releases Public Policy Agenda for 117th Congress

Congress Certifies Biden’s Victory Following Breach of Capitol

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January 11, 2021

What You Need to Know

 

Last week tested our democracy. The violent siege of the Capitol will live on as a dark day in America’s history. However, we can take heart in the fact that our democracy survives, and that our government, when it transcends personal politics, works to support the needs of the people and America’s healthcare workforce. AACOM thanks the 116th Congress and the current Administration for extending and increasing funding for several key programs vital to osteopathic medical education (OME) in year-end legislation. Read AACOM President and CEO Dr. Robert A. Cain’s on Congress’ COVID-19 stimulus package and spending bill and AACOM’s Public Policy Agenda for the 117th Congress.

On The Hill

COVID-19 Stimulus and FY21 Spending Bills Signed into Law

 

On December 27, the President signed into law the fiscal year (FY) 2021 omnibus spending and COVID-19 stimulus bill. The FY21 spending package, which includes all 12 appropriations subcommittee bills, funds federal agencies through September 30, 2021. The spending measure extends several physician training programs through FY23, including the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program, which AACOM has strongly advocated for, the National Health Service Corps, and community health centers. The package also includes a $19.5 million increase for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)'s Title VII and Title VIII health professions workforce training programs, and several graduate medical education provisions to help alleviate the nation’s physician workforce shortage, including new training slots to teaching hospitals. Many agencies critical to OME also received increased funding from last year’s levels, including a $151 million increase for HRSA and a $1.25 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health.

 

  to learn more about federal spending allocations for other programs of interest to OME, as well as key COVID-19 relief measures.

Congress Affirms Biden’s Election Win

 

After the hours-long lockdown of the Capitol due to the assault on January 6, Congress reconvened to formally certify the Electoral College votes and President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory. The two chambers had been separately debating objections to the votes, which were raised by congressional Republicans during a traditionally ceremonial process. After rioters were removed and the Capitol resecured, the joint session of Congress rejected the challenges to the certified results and voted to ratify Biden’s win. The President-elect takes office on January 20.

Democrats Win Control of Senate

 

Last week, Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff defeated their Republican opponents in the Georgia Senate runoff elections. Once the new Georgia Senators are sworn in, each caucus will hold 50 US Senate seats. With Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting any tie-breaking votes, Democrats will cement their control of the US Senate in addition to the US House of Representatives and White House. President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees may face speedier confirmation in the Senate as a result, and Democratic legislative priorities, such as additional COVID-19 aid, may move more quickly through Congress.

Pelosi Reelected as House Speaker, New Committee Leadership Announced

 

US Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was reelected Speaker of the House for what is expected to be her last term, joining Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in leading Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will now serve as Senate Minority Leader, while Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) remains Minority Leader in the House.

 

The 2020 election resulted in new leadership for congressional committees relevant to OME, including the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Former Senate HELP Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) worked closely with former Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) on attempts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA). The HEA governs federal financial aid and loan forgiveness programs that graduate students rely on to finance their education, including the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program and Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan Program. With Alexander’s retirement and the Senate flip to Democratic control, the new Senate HELP Chair Murray will now need to negotiate with the new Republican Ranking Member to craft major bipartisan legislation.

 

View AACOM’s breakdown of projected committee leadership in the 117th Congress below.

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Advocacy

Osteopathic Medical Students: Health Policy Internship Deadline Approaching!

 

Current osteopathic medical students, apply today for AACOM’s 2021 – 2022 virtual ! As an intern, you will gain firsthand experience working at the national level on healthcare and higher education policy issues. Interns spend eight consecutive weeks working virtually with AACOM’s government relations department, developing a comprehensive understanding of policy development, analysis and implementation. Applications are due January 29, 2021. !

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Administration and Federal Agencies

AACOM Sends Letter to President-elect Biden

 

On December 22, AACOM sent a outlining the essential role that the OME community plays in our healthcare delivery system. AACOM reiterated its desire to work closely with the Biden Administration, urged support of robust policies that foster OME, including the residency training of osteopathic physicians, and expressed intent to pursue opportunities to strategically position osteopathic leaders to influence federal policy. AACOM will continue to engage with the new Administration to advance policies important to our community.

President-elect Biden Introduces Education Secretary Nominee

 

Making good on his promise to choose a teacher to lead the US Department of Education (ED), President-elect Biden announced his intent to nominate , as Secretary of Education. Cardona, who currently serves as the Connecticut Commissioner of Education, is a former elementary school teacher who then became the youngest principal in the state at age 27. On December 30, Dr. Cardona tweeted, “We will be a student, educator, and family-first Education Department. You have my word.” A top priority for the Biden Administration will be safely reopening schools across the country. On January 7, in response to the Capitol breach, Betsy DeVos resigned from her position as ED Secretary, effective Friday, January 8.

Flexible Payments Now Satisfy Borrower’s PSLF Progress

 

Last month, Federal Student Aid announced that for the first time, prepayment and lump sum payments will count towards PSLF qualifying payment progress. Prepayments will count for up to 12 months or until the next payment recertification, whichever comes first, extending greater flexibility to borrowers. The PSLF Program is critical to recruiting and retaining physicians to serve in rural and medically underserved areas. According to AACOM data, 80 percent of graduating osteopathic medical students in the 2019 – 2020 academic year who planned to enter a loan forgiveness program intended to enter the PSLF Program. See what this change may mean for your and learn more about the .

Diversity Training Executive Order Subject to Federal Injunction

 

In response to a court challenge in California to the Trump Administration’s September , a federal judge issued a late December nationwide preliminary , effective immediately. The injunction provided relief to contractors and grantees, allowing them to continue to offer diversity training programs and related activities without fear of reprisal, but provided no relief for diversity training targeted at federal employees. AACOM will continue to provide updates to membership as the incoming Biden Administration reviews all EOs issued by the Trump Administration.

Featured Federal Resources and COM Engagement

Applications for HRSA Community Prevention and Maternal Health Program Now Open: HRSA is now accepting applications for the . The program trains primary care physicians in maternal healthcare clinical services or population health to improve maternal health outcomes. HRSA is offering a Technical Assistance webinar on Wednesday, January 13 from 3:00 – 4:30 PM ET. Applications are due February 22. .

SAMHSA Mental Health Awareness Training Grants Now Available: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is now accepting applications for the 2021 Mental Health Awareness Training grant. The program will train individuals to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental disorders and provide tools to safely respond to such disorders. Applications are due February 5. .

HRSA Behavioral Health Program Now Accepting Applications: HRSA is now accepting applications for the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program for Professionals. The program seeks to expand access to behavioral health services by increasing the supply of behavioral health professionals and improving the distribution of a quality behavioral health workforce. A special focus is placed on the knowledge and understanding of children, adolescents and transitional-aged youth at risk for behavioral health disorders. Applications are due January 21. .

Copyright ©2021 American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. All Rights Reserved.

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