Monday, September 12, 2011

Job creation, better health care - what will the ACA provide next?

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced that approximately $700 million in funding, provided by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), has been made available to help build and update our community health centers. These centers provide needed care in many underserved and low-income American communities, delivering care to nearly 20 million patients regardless of their ability to pay, at more than 8,100 service delivery sites around the country. In 2010, they employed more than 131,000 staff. As HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has pointed out, "For many Americans, community health centers are the major source of care that ranges from prevention to treatment."

And, according to the HHS, the newly-available funding will help create thousands of jobs in the health care industry, which is probably a good thing, since the health care industry is one of the few areas in which job openings are almost certainly guaranteed to increase dramatically in the coming years. This is partly because the ACA is  expected to create more patients. If the individual mandate holds up under Supreme Court scrutiny, many more Americans will be covered by health insurance than is now the case, and it is hoped that the ACA will encourage more people to seek out preventive, or wellness care. Hospitals are outsourcing many jobs, including physician services, supposedly because of the shortage of American health care workers.

Nothing was mentioned in the recent funding opportunity announcement from the HHS with regard to how the centers will be expected to fill the jobs that the ACA is expected to create, if the decline in the number of available health care workers becomes a reality. More funding for education for students who wish to go into medicine would seem to be in order, through such organizations as the National Service Health Corps (NSHC), which  serves areas of the U.S. that are short of health professionals through scholarship and loan repayment programs. The ACA authorized the NHSC to expand the benefits of those scholarship and loan repayment programs, but that provision seems to be in constant jeopardy from Congress. According to the Association of American Mecial Colleges' website, back in February, the House attempted to eliminate the NHSC appropriation and dissolve the NHSC Fund established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, P.L. 111-148 and P.L. 111-152).with the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act (H.R. 1).

Community health centers will have two funding opportunities available to them;  approximately $600 million for health centers to expand their facilities via long-term projects, hire more employees and serve more patients, and $100 million for shorter-term projects involving immediate facility needs. Also, the ACA will provide $11 billion in funding for community health centers over the next five years.

For a comprehensive analysis of the ACA, and additional information on health reform and other developments in employee benefits, just click here.


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