COVID-19 Stimulus Bill Poised to Pass by Budget Reconciliation

AACOM Advocates for Reintroduced Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, Boosts THCGME in Reconciliation Package



March 8, 2021

What You Need to Know


The US Senate has advanced the COVID-19 stimulus package through budget reconciliation, a process that congressional Democrats are using to pass the relief measure before enhanced federal unemployment benefits expire on March 14. Through this process, Democrats will be able to pass the bill with a simple majority in both chambers. Because Democrats have a slim Senate majority, passing the bill without budget reconciliation would be unlikely. The infographic below provides more detail.

On The Hill

Senate Passes COVID-19 Stimulus Bill


Following a marathon voting session Saturday, the Senate voted 50-49 to advance the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (HR 1319), the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, which Democrats are aiming to pass through budget reconciliation.


Importantly, the package provides $330 million for the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program to create new sites, expand existing sites and increase the per resident allocation. AACOM worked to defeat an amendment that would have reduced funding for the program by 80 percent. The legislation also includes $39.6 billion for institutions of higher education, including colleges of osteopathic medicine, $7.6 billion for public health workforce expansion, $40 million for improving mental and behavioral health among the health professional workforce, and $8.5 billion for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccine activities. Senators approved by voice vote an amendment to the 90/10 provision that expands restrictions on federal funding to for-profit colleges. Under the bipartisan deal, the US Department of Education (ED) must pause rulemaking on the issue until October, delaying implementation until January 2023.


The House is expected to vote on the Senate changes to the package early this week, with the goal of sending it to the President’s desk to be signed into law by March 14. AACOM continues to engage Congress and the Administration to protect and promote opportunities for the osteopathic medical education (OME) community in the reconciliation package. A complete analysis of the package is forthcoming.

AACOM Advocates for Bill to Promote Healthcare Professionals’ Mental and Behavioral Heath


S. 610, the bipartisan Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which seeks to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout and other mental and behavioral health conditions among healthcare professionals. The bill is named after Dr. Lorna Breen, the New York City emergency room physician who died by suicide after treating COVID-19 patients. AACOM worked with Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) on this bicameral legislation’s reintroduction on March 4. Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA) will introduce the bill in the House. The pending COVID-19 stimulus package echoes many of the bill’s priorities and includes $80 million for mental health and substance use disorder training for healthcare professionals. Osteopathic medical schools would be eligible to apply for this grant funding. AACOM in the 116th Congress and remains committed to understanding and addressing burnout among health professionals, a condition that has been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

AACOM Supports CDC and AHRQ FY22 Funding


AACOM 192 national organizations of the CDC Coalition in a letter to House and Senate Appropriations Committee leadership requesting $10 billion for the CDC’s programs in fiscal year (FY) 2022. Besides ensuring a strong public health infrastructure and protecting the nation from public health threats and emergencies, the CDC is crucial to reducing healthcare costs and improving health. In addition, AACOM joined 117 national organizations of the Friends of AHRQ in a letter urging leaders of the and Appropriations Committees to provide $500 million in FY22 funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The AHRQ supports research to improve healthcare quality, reduce costs, advance patient safety, decrease medical errors and broaden access to essential services.



Administration and Federal Agencies

Cardona Sworn in as Secretary of Education; Biden Builds Out Higher Ed Team


On March 2, , was sworn in as the nation’s 12th . On his first full, official day in office, he traveled with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden to his hometown of Meriden, CT to tout the reopening of schools. Joining him at ED will be , nominated to be Under Secretary of Education, a role that historically focuses on higher education. Kvaal is the president of the Institute for College Access and Success and previously served as the deputy domestic policy advisor at the White House, working on issues of economic opportunity. Higher education issues are likely to be a key focus of the , staffed by several education leaders and led by Susan Rice. AACOM will engage with these leaders to elevate and advance OME.

ED Streamlines Student Borrower Counseling Features


ED’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) has the entrance and exit counseling features required of student borrowers. Entrance counseling improvements include a loan repayment simulation and modules that are integrated with the College Scorecard. Exit counseling upgrades provide more personalized loan information and repayment strategies. In addition, FSA has launched new features to the mobile app, including a page for personal documents and a way to contact FSA directly.




Take Action to Improve Rural Healthcare: Urge Congress to Expand THCGME


Your voice makes a difference! We are calling on you, as a member of the OME community, to to enact long-term funding for the highly successful THCGME Program, which is vital to addressing primary care physician shortages in rural and medically underserved communities. Help relieve these shortages and ease the unprecedented pressure COVID-19 is placing on our healthcare system. .

Fighting for a Familiar Face—A Push for Diversity in Medicine


Growing up, Nikita Deval, fourth-year student at the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine and AACOM’s Osteopathic Health Policy Intern, never questioned why her pediatrician was Indian. It wasn’t until she reached an older age that she realized this was a privilege. After experiencing bullying and microaggressions, she found a way to connect with her culture through classical Indian music, and was inspired to become the representation that she .

Apply by March 31 for AACOM’s Osteopathic Health Policy Fellowship


AACOM’s Osteopathic Health Policy Fellowship is a prestigious, year-long leadership training program for osteopathic physicians and other associated health professionals to develop the skills they need to analyze, formulate and implement health policy on the local, state and national levels. Join this distinguished group of fellows. .

Featured Federal Resources and COM Engagement

NIH Requests Comments on Ways to Strengthen Equity in Research Workforce: Building on its efforts to end structural racism and inequities in biomedical research through a new initiative called , the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued a (RFI) on ways to improve racial equity, diversity and inclusion in the biomedical workforce at NIH and in the community. Comments are due by April 9, 2021. Please notify AACOM Government Relations at if you or your institution plan to respond to the RFI. AACOM will continue to engage NIH to advance diversity, equity and inclusion and integrate osteopathic medicine into the nation’s federal research infrastructure. .

Osteopathic Medical Students Recognized as AHEC Scholars: Three exceptional osteopathic medical students from and five from were named Scholars at their respective Area Health Education Centers (AHECs). Mindy Hoang, Kella Vangsness and Kajal Vora were named to the , while Chizoba Akunwanne, Shelby Flowers, Miles McCabe, Shelby McGee and Julia Patterson were named to the . These osteopathic medical students will participate in a two-year, team-based education and training program focused on rural and underserved areas.

Des Moines University Awarded $2 Million for Telehealth Workforce Training: Through funding in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the US Department of Commerce awarded a $2 million to Des Moines University (DMU). This economic development assistance will allow DMU to acquire the latest telehealth technology and train its workforce as part of a simulation center on its new campus, set to open in 2023. “This important investment will enhance the training of professionals who will make telehealth a permanent offering in our health care system,” says DMU President and CEO Angela L. Walker Franklin, PhD. .

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