In stark contrast to the Trump administration’s FY18 and FY19 budget proposals, which proposed the elimination of most Title VII funding programs, the final 2,232-page spending package signed by the president contains a number of favorable provisions for PA education. This is largely thanks to the ongoing grassroots efforts of PA education advocates. The most pertinent provisions include:
Title VII Funding Increases
The omnibus contains a series of increases for both Title VII and Title VIII health workforce programs totaling $222 million over FY17 levels. Of particular note are increases of $10 million for Primary Care Training and Enhancement (PCTE) grants, $8 million for Area Health Education Centers, and $3 million for Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students. The National Health Service Corps also received a discretionary increase of $105 million “to expand and improve access to quality opioid and substance use disorder treatment in rural and underserved areas nationwide.”
Supportive 15% Allocation Report Language
In addition to the bill text, an explanatory statement is included to clarify congressional intent related to the inclusion of certain provisions in the legislation. The explanatory statement notes that, “[T]he agreement directs HRSA to ensure that not less than 15 percent of funds provided for [the Primary Care Training and Enhancement program] are used to support training of physician assistants.” The inclusion of this statement signals strong congressional support for the continued development of innovative practices among PA programs receiving PCTE funding.
Authorized Pilot Program for Veterans to Become PAs
The omnibus bill also includes legislative language from H.R. 3262, Grow Our Own Directive: The Physician Assistant Employment and Education Act, authorizing the creation of a five-year pilot program to “provide educational assistance to certain former members of the Armed Forces for education and training as physician assistants of the Department of Veterans Affairs.” PAEA sent letters of support to the congressional offices that sponsored this legislation and launched a grassroots advocacy campaign in support of this bill last fall.
While this omnibus spending package is undoubtedly beneficial for PA education, advocates must remain vigilant to continued threats to Title VII funding in FY19. Preserving the increases achieved in the bill and advocating for additional investments in PA education will be a top priority for the PAEA Government Relations team as the fiscal year 2019 appropriations process moves forward.
The omnibus bill funds the operations of the federal government through the end of fiscal year 2018 in September and eliminates the threat of a government shutdown until the beginning of fiscal year 2019 in October.
If you have questions about the PA education provisions contained in the omnibus, please contact advocacy@PAEAonline.org.