House Subcommittee Moves Health Legislation
Last week, the House Committee on Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a markup on health care legislation relevant to the osteopathic medical education community. It passed H.R. 2328, the Community Health Investment, Modernization, and Excellence Act, which was introduced by U.S. Representatives Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY). The bill would extend four years of mandatory funding for, among other health programs, the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program and the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). Both programs strengthen and grow the primary care workforce by supporting dedicated health professionals serving in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). Without congressional action, funding for the programs will expire on October 1.
While AACOM appreciates the House’s support of these vital programs, we have strongly endorsed a similar bipartisan bill, H.R. 2815, 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 House to prioritize and pass this critical legislation.
AACOM Joins Letter to ED Secretary on PSLF
AACOM joined 31 organizations in a letter to U.S. Department of Education (ED) Secretary Betsy DeVos urging her to waive provisions to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program that subject borrowers to additional unintended requirements to receive loan forgiveness they’ve earned. PSLF incentivizes careers in public service by assisting qualified individuals as they work to give back to their communities, and can encourage new physicians to pursue primary care specialties. AACOM continues to advocate for PSLF 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.
Senate Confirms Robert King for Higher Education Post
Last week, the Senate voted 56 – 37 to confirm President Trump’s nominee Robert L. King as Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education at ED, where he is currently a senior advisor. King previously served as president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, president and CEO of the Arizona Community Foundation, and chancellor of the State University of New York system. In the Office of Postsecondary Education, King will lead and oversee ED’s divisions of Higher Education Programs, the Office of International and Foreign Language Education, and the Office of Policy, Planning, and Innovation.
Maximize Your Advocacy this August: Get Active in Your District or State
August recess offers a unique opportunity to connect with Members of Congress while they are back home in their districts and states. Lawmakers highly value attending local events, which they cite as one of the most effective ways to gain an understanding of constituent opinions and needs. If you are planning an event that you’d like your legislator to attend or are looking for other ways to get involved with advocacy this summer, ED to MED has helpful suggestions to ensure you’re making the most impact during August recess
ED Rescinds Gainful Employment Rule
On July 1, ED rescinded the 2014 gainful employment (GE) regulations, which required for-profit institutions, including for-profit osteopathic medical schools, and non-degree granting public or non-profit institutions, to report various disclosures on applicable programs to ED using the 2019 GE Disclosure Template. The rule further required institutions to post these disclosures on the institution’s webpage. The new GE rule rescinds those reporting requirements for the 2018 – 2019 award year, while also rescinding program cohort default regulations and eliminating the debt-to-earnings metric previously imposed on those impacted institutions that sought to maintain Title IV eligibility. The new GE rule will be implemented on July 1, 2020; however, impacted institutions may seek early implementation as outlined in guidance issued by ED. Institutions that do not choose to implement the new GE rule early will still be required to comply with the 2014 rule until July 1, 2020.
AACOM has remained engaged with ED on this issue and continuously stressed concerns regarding the potential federal overreach and the dangerous precedent should the GE requirements be revised to apply to all U.S. medical schools, whether for-profit, nonprofit, or public. AACOM previously expressed concerns with the 2014 rule’s one-size-fits-all approach that disregarded factors unique to medical education, causing unnecessary financial and administrative reporting burdens for for-profit medical schools. Importantly, AACOM continues to uphold that mechanisms should be in place to protect borrowers and federal taxpayers from predatory practices across all sectors of the higher education system.
SCOTUS to Hear Arguments Over DACA Termination
On June 28, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) announced that it will hear arguments over the Administration’s 2017 decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children from being deported. The DACA program was established by a 2012 memorandum as an executive branch program by the Obama Administration and provides renewable, two-year work permits to individuals known as “Dreamers” who meet certain additional requirements. SCOTUS consolidated three federal appellate court cases (Dep’t of Homeland Security v. Regents of the Univ. of California, Trump v. NAACP, and McAleenan v. Vidal), all of which blocked the Administration’s attempt to terminate the DACA program. SCOTUS will determine whether the decision to end DACA is judicially reviewable, and if so, whether the decision to terminate DACA is lawful. The three cases will be argued together on November 12.
HRSA Publishes Updated HPSA Lists
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) recently published a notice containing the updated lists of geographic areas, population groups, and facilities designated as primary medical care, mental health, and dental HPSAs as of May 1, 2019. These geographic areas, population groups, and facilities are potentially eligible to access federal assistance and resources including the various scholarship and loan repayment programs administered by the NHSC. Additionally, entities with clinical training sites located in HPSAs are eligible to receive priority for certain residency training program grants administered by HRSA’s Bureau of Health Workforce.
Featured Federal Resources and COM Engagement
VCOM-Carolinas Hosts HHS Official for Opioid Epidemic Discussion: On June 25, Vanila Singh, MD, Chief Medical Officer for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), visited the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine – Carolinas Campus (VCOM-Carolinas) to present her work on issues including opioid use and misuse, medical ethics, and public health. Dr. Singh was invited to the campus to discuss her work’s progress and how training future doctors can help address the opioid epidemic, a top priority for HHS. Timothy J. Kowalski, DO, Dean of VCOM-Carolinas, opened the discussion by emphasizing VCOM’s mission of serving rural, underserved communities. Dr. Singh, noting that many VCOM students come from rural Appalachia and return there to practice, sees the institution as “part of the solution that is much needed.” Learn more.
Reminder: NHSC Rural Community LRP Application Q&A Tomorrow: The NHSC is hosting a Q&A session tomorrow from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM ET for applicants interested in applying for its Rural Community Loan Repayment Program. The NHSC will award up to $100,000 in student loan repayment to primary care and behavioral health clinicians providing substance use disorder treatment in rural communities nationwide. Applications are due by 7:30 PM ET on July 18. Learn more.
NIH Seeks Input on Pain and Opioid Misuse Curriculum: In accordance with its National Pain Strategy, the National Institutes of Health is seeking input regarding the Centers for Excellence in Pain Education Program, general pain education, and opioid misuse or use disorder education curriculum. Comments from the medical education community, health care professionals providing pain treatment, researchers, and other relevant stakeholders are due by September 1. Learn more.
CMS Requests Information on Reducing Administrative Burden: As a part of its Patients Over Paperwork Initiative, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is seeking public comment on regulatory policies and opportunities to streamline reporting requirements to reduce unnecessary administrative burdens on health care providers. This initiative aims to increase the quality of care, improve program integrity, lower costs, and make the health care system more effective. Comments are due August 12 by 5:00 PM ET. Learn more.
HHS Announces Quality Summit: HHS recently announced that it will convene a Quality Summit with key industry stakeholders and government officials to discuss opportunities to streamline HHS quality programs and improve value-based care on behalf of the nation’s patient populations. The Summit will review quality programs within CMS, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HRSA, and the Indian Health Service. Additionally, HHS is accepting nominations for Summit participants through July 31. Learn more.
Updates to the CMS Opioid Prescribing Mapping Tool: CMS recently expanded its Opioid Prescribing Mapping Tool with the most complete and recent data from Medicaid to assist rural communities in their efforts to address the opioid crisis. The interactive site allows users to view the number and percentage of opioid prescriptions over time and to make geographic comparisons to better understand prescribing rates in their area. View the website.
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