July 1, 2019

What You Need to Know

Congress has adjourned for the July 4 holiday recess following a very busy week during which both chambers moved key legislation of interest to osteopathic medical education (OME). Meanwhile, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is accepting applications for its fiscal year (FY) 2020 Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program, which supports primary care residency training in community-based care centers, particularly in rural and underserved communities. AACOM strongly advocates for the THCGME Program and has endorsed bipartisan legislation, the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act of 2019 (H.R. 2815/S. 1191), which would reauthorize and expand THCGME. AACOM is calling on its membership to help ensure this vital program can continue to increase access to care for our most vulnerable patients. With our nation facing a primary care physician shortage, now is the time for the OME community to take action.

Mary-Lynn Bender

Interim Vice President of Government and Public Relations

icon-1    On The Hill

House and Senate Move Key Health Legislation

Last week, House and Senate committees held markups on health care legislation relevant to the OME community. The House Ways and Means Committee passed the Beneficiary Education Tools Telehealth Extender Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3417), which incorporates the AACOM-supported Advancing Medical Resident Training in Community Hospitals Act of 2019, introduced by U.S. Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and George Holding (R-NC). This bill is designed to help hospitals that accidentally established Medicare graduate medical education (GME) caps and/or per-resident amounts based on small numbers of resident rotators. The Committee also passed the Opioid Workforce Act of 2019 (H.R. 3414), an AACOM-endorsed bipartisan bill that would provide Medicare support for an additional 1,000 GME positions over five years in hospitals that have, or are in the process of establishing, accredited residency programs in addiction medicine, addiction psychiatry, or pain medicine.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed S. 1895, the Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019, a bipartisan package introduced by Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) that includes a provision similar to the AACOM-endorsed Community and Public Health Programs Extension Act (S. 192). This bill would extend five years of mandatory funding for, among other health programs, the THCGME Program and the National Health Service Corps. Both programs strengthen and grow the primary care workforce by supporting dedicated health professionals serving in Health Professional Shortage Areas. Without congressional action, funding for the programs will expire on October 1.

While AACOM appreciates the Senate’s support of these vital programs, we have strongly endorsed a similar bipartisan bill, S. 1191, the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act of 2019, which would not only reauthorize but also expand the THCGME Program. We continue to urge the Senate to prioritize and pass this much-needed legislation.

House Passes FY20 Spending Packages

On June 19, the House passed H.R. 2740, the first spending measure of the FY20 appropriations season. The four-bill spending package, which contains nearly $1 trillion in spending, provides increased funding for both the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education. Following that, the House passed H.R. 3055, a five-bill spending package totaling $322 billion that increases funding for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. However, the White House maintains its veto threat for both measures, citing spending levels for non-defense discretionary programs that the Administration has deemed too high, and certain contentious policy provisions. Although House leaders aimed to pass all 12 of the FY20 spending bills by the end of June, the chamber has recessed for the July 4th holiday without completing two spending measures.

AACOM Joins Coalition Letter in Support of Grad PLUS

AACOM joined 18 national organizations in a letter to the Senate HELP Committee leadership in support of the Federal Direct Graduate PLUS (Grad PLUS) Loan Program. Grad PLUS loans provide a critical pathway for graduate and professional students to finance the full cost of their education, including tuition, room and board, and other important living expenses, while also offering students benefits not available in the private loan market—fixed interest rates, loan forgiveness options, and income-driven repayment plans. Grad PLUS loans are crucial to the future physician workforce: 70% of osteopathic medical students who graduated in the 2017 – 2018 academic year relied on Grad PLUS loans. AACOM continues to advocate for Grad PLUS through its national grassroots advocacy campaign, ED to MED, and urges you to help save this vital loan program by writing your Members of Congress today.


U.S. Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) recently reintroduced the Protecting Our Students by Terminating Graduate Rates that Add to Debt Act (H.R. 3418), an AACOM-supported bill that would help graduate and professional students finance their education. This legislation would reinstate graduate and professional student eligibility for Federal Direct Subsidized Loans, which was eliminated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The measure would essentially cover graduate and professional students’ cost of interest accrued on federal loans while completing their education. AACOM also supported this legislation in the last Congress.

icon-2    Advocacy

A Voice for Advocacy and an Example to Follow: Dr. Stephen C. Shannon

ED to MED was created in 2016 with the support of AACOM immediate past President and CEO Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH, who joined the Association in January 2006 and retired this June. To honor Dr. Shannon’s pivotal role in supporting the campaign and its growth over the years, ED to MED spoke with him about his commitment to advocacy, interprofessional collaboration, and the power of storytelling to effect positive change.

Reminder: Urge Congress to Support the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act of 2019!

The THCGME Program has been highly effective in addressing the primary care physician workforce shortage and delivering health care services to vulnerable communities. We’d like to thank the U.S. Representatives and Senators representing our colleges of osteopathic medicine who introduced and cosponsored the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act of 2019 (H.R. 2815/S. 1191), AACOM-endorsed, bipartisan legislation that would reauthorize and expand THCGME: Representatives Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM), Susie Lee (D-NV), and Steve Stivers (R-OH); and Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Jon Tester (D-MT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Doug Jones (D-AL), John Boozman (R-AR), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Debbie Stabenow (MD-D), and Cory Gardner (CO-R). It is crucial for the OME community to speak out about the importance of expanding THCGME. AACOM urges you to contact Congress today in support of this vital bill.

Celebrating #NationalSelfieDay with ED to MED

AACOM and ED to MED celebrated National Selfie Day by encouraging our advocates to share selfies on social media accompanied by messages describing how federal programs such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Grad PLUS help protect future health care professionals and patients across the country. Learn more.

icon-3    Administration & Federal Agencies

AACOM Comments on CMS FY20 IPPS Proposed Rule

AACOM recently submitted comments to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding its FY20 Medicare Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment Systems for Acute Care Hospitals and the Long-Term Care Hospital Prospective Payment System proposed rule. AACOM commented in support of the CMS proposal that would change how full-time equivalent (FTE) resident time may be counted when residents train at critical access hospitals. If finalized, this provision would take effect on October 1. CMS is expected to issue a final rule later this year.

HRSA Announces FY20 THCGME Program

HRSA is now accepting applications through August 30 for its FY20 THCGME Program. Awards will be made to support HRSA-funded filled resident positions at existing HRSA THCGME Programs and new resident positions at new Teaching Health Centers. Interested applicants may participate in a HRSA-hosted technical assistance webinar on July 10. AACOM strongly supports the highly successful THCGME Program, which brings health care to medically underserved communities across the nation, and has endorsed bipartisan legislation to reauthorize and fund it. Learn more.

President Trump Signs Executive Order Culling Advisory Committees

On June 14, President Trump signed the Executive Order (EO) on Evaluating and Improving the Utility of Federal Advisory Committees. The intent of the EO is to eliminate advisory committees that have accomplished their stated objectives, have become obsolete, have had their primary functions otherwise assumed, or have excessive cost relative to their benefits. According to the EO, each agency must terminate at least one-third of its current committees established under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. By August 1, the heads of each agency must submit their recommendations to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, who will then provide recommendations to the President by September 1, with the stated goal of terminating the targeted committees and reducing the number of federal advisory committees from 1,000 to 350 by September 30. It is important to note that federal advisory committees specifically authorized by law or by the President are essentially exempted from the EO, as are advisory committees that provide input to regulatory agencies created to be independent from the executive branch. AACOM will continue to engage with federal agencies regarding any potential impact to federal advisory committees of importance to the OME community.

VA Releases RFI Seeking Strategies to End Veteran Suicide

As part of President Trump’s EO on a National Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End Suicide, the Veteran Wellness, Empowerment, and Suicide Prevention Task Force was created and ordered to develop the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide. In response to this directive, the Task Force released a Request for Information (RFI) to gather feedback from the public about how to improve research efforts to reduce veteran suicide. The RFI seeks input on ways to increase the ability to identify veterans at greater risk of suicide; increase the knowledge about factors influencing suicidal behaviors and ways to prevent suicide; develop strategies that can be applied and implemented quickly; coordinate relevant research efforts across the nation; and measure the progress of these efforts. The public comments will be used by the Task Force to inform its creation and implementation of a National Research Strategy to combat veteran suicide. Public comments should be submitted by August 5.

Featured Federal Resources and COM Engagement

NIAMS Seeks Input on FY20 – 24 Strategic Plan: The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) is requesting comments by July 12 from health care professionals, academic researchers, advocates, and other relevant stakeholders on the Institute’s research plans for the next five years. The draft NIAMS Strategic Plan for FY20 – 24 is based on community listening sessions, input from the NIAMS Advisory Council’s strategic plan working group, and feedback from a prior RFI. Learn more.

SAMHSA Grant to Expand Substance Use Disorder Education: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is accepting applications for its Expansion of Practitioner Education Program. This opportunity aims to expand the integration of substance use disorder (SUD) education into the standard curriculum of health care education programs and increase the number of practitioners who can provide SUD treatment. Applications are due by August 2. Learn more.

wi-july1a PNWU President Dr. Michael Lawler delivers welcoming remarks to Summit attendees and speakers on Thursday, June 20.

PNWU Hosts Regional Summit on Opioid Use Disorder and Trauma-Informed Care: On June 20 – 21, Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences (PNWU) hosted a two-day regional summit on opioid use disorder and trauma-informed care. Over 240 health care professionals gathered in Washington to discuss topics including the origins of addiction, medication myths, implementation of opioid prevention and treatment initiatives, innovative models of care, non-traditional treatments for pain, and resilience training for physicians. Regional and national experts addressed humanistic approaches to trauma-informed care, putting the scope of our nation’s opioid crisis into perspective and emphasizing the importance of reducing the stigma surrounding opioid addiction. In his opening remarks, PNWU’s Executive Director of Interprofessional Practice and Education Keith Monosky, PhD, said, “This Summit is where solutions are formulated, where stakeholders from federal to family convene, and where change begins.”


BCOM librarians and grant recipients Erin Palazzolo (left), Library Director, and Norice Lee, Associate Library Director

BCOM Awarded NNLM Grant for Bilingual Training on Suicide and HIV/AIDS Prevention: The National Network of Libraries of Medicine awarded librarians at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine (BCOM) $10,000 in federal funding to provide free bilingual suicide prevention and HIV/AIDs training to community health workers, or promotores, in southern New Mexico. “By training these promotores,” says BCOM’s Library Director Erin Palazzolo, “our hope is that they will then return to their respective communities and share this knowledge, especially among Spanish speakers, helping to decrease both suicide and HIV/AIDS rates.” Learn more.

wi-july1c.jpgTouroCOM Student Selected for NIH Medical Research Scholars Program: Luke O’Connor, fourth-year student at the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, Middletown, New York, is one of three-ever osteopathic medical students selected for the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s Medical Research Scholars Program (MRSP). Luke will spend a year at NIH headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, where he will receive mentored training and conduct urology cancer research. Luke became interested in urology during a clinical rotation at a large medical center, where he was attracted to the balance of both treating patients and moving research forward. Being able to treat a sizable, diverse group of patients—from infants to the elderly—also drives his interest in the field. "It is an honor to be selected for the MRSP and I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to dedicate an entire year to research at the NIH,” Luke says. “With supportive mentorship, I will develop skills that I will use for the rest of my career as a physician-scientist.” Luke recommends that osteopathic medical students interested in research get involved as early as possible, from pre-med through undergrad, and continue to pursue research opportunities throughout medical school.

HRSA Requests Comments on the THCGME Resident/Fellow Chart
: HRSA recently published an information collection request on the THCGME Program Eligible Resident/Fellow FTE Chart, which serves as a means for determining the number of eligible resident/fellow FTEs in an applicant's primary care residency program. Comments are due by August 19. Learn more.

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Contact the editors: aacomgr@aacom.org

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