PAEA President William Kohlhepp seized a golden opportunity on March 8 to bring awareness to Congress on perhaps the most important issue facing PA programs: the shortage of clinical sites for training PA students. Kohlhepp told the committee that PA programs are well positioned to help meet the changing health care needs of the nation through increasing their output of graduates, but for one barrier — “Efforts to increase the numbers of PA graduates must contend with one crucial factor: the critical shortage of clinical training sites,” he said.
Kohlhepp was invited to testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies during its Public Witness hearing. On behalf of PAEA and PA education programs, Kohlhepp requested $12 million for PA programs in the Title VII Primary Care Training and Enhancement grants program, a significant increase over the $2.4 million awarded last year. Title VII funds can be used to enhance both clinical education and recruitment of applicants from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds, he said.
Even this increase represents a modest investment relative to the growing number of PA programs and graduates: “Federal funding has not kept pace with program growth,” Kohlhepp said. The most recent Primary Care Training and Enhancement competition funded only 13 of the 218 accredited PA programs — a number expected to grow by at least 50 in the next few years.
Kohlhepp told the committee that PAEA’s request for $12 million to expand the capacity of PA education is “an investment in improving access to primary care, which can significantly reduce future health care costs.”
Committee Chair Tom Cole (R-OK) and Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), from Kohlhepp’s home district, both thanked him for his testimony, with the chair remarking that no matter how health care reform proposals change aspects of the health care system, there will still be a need to address shortages of clinicians.