Health Care Reform-Workforce Related Legislation

Senate HELP Committee: America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009

Education and Public Interest Government Relations Office (GRO) staff worked tirelessly for weeks, including a marathon last-day, 13-hour effort to gain important technical corrections to the psychology education and training provisions, which were based on the Graduate Psychology Education Act of 2009 (S. 811), which was introduced by Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) in April, and the Health Professions and Primary Care Reinvestment Act (S.3708 – 110th Congress), in the workforce section of the draft Senate HELP Committee HCR bill. The workforce title of the Senate HELP Committee Health Care Reform (HCR) bill was marked-up by the Committee beginning on June 24, 2009.  The corrections are especially important to protecting the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program, and include: (1) a separate authorization of appropriations (up to $10 million) for psychology doctoral, internships, and postdoctoral programs; and (2) a definition for “graduate psychology” that reads, "accredited program of professional psychology."  Education GRO has confirmed these inclusions in the final bill that was passed on July 11, 2009, by a vote of 13-10.

In addition, Public Interest GRO, in collaboration with Education GRO and the Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA), successfully gained the inclusion of provisions from the Retooling the Health Care Workforce for an Aging America Act (S. 245/H.R. 468) and the Health Professions and Primary Care Reinvestment Act (H.R. 7302 – 110th Congress) in the Senate HELP Committee draft bill.  These provisions include the authority to: (1) expand eligibility for Geriatric Academic Career Awards to include a variety of new disciplines, including psychology faculty; (2) establish a new Geriatric Career Incentive Awards program to provide financial support to those pursing a doctorate or other advanced degree in geriatrics, including students of psychology; and (3) expand Geriatric Education Centers to offer short-term intensive courses in geriatrics to faculty members, including psychologists.

House Tri-Committee America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009

Education and Public Interest GRO staff negotiated with House Energy & Commerce Committee staff to add a provision on mental and behavioral health training to the House Tri-Committee HCR bill that would give psychology a protected percentage of the funding. On July 17, 2009, an amendment to create a new subtitle was offered by Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) with support from Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) to H.R. 3200, American’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009. Their support of the GPE Program is the result of outreach by APA President, James Bray, PhD. Earlier in April Reps. Green and Murphy  introduced the Graduate Psychology Education Act of 2009 (H.R. 2066) the companion bill to S. 811 that was introduced by Sen. Inouye also in April.

The provision establishes an interdisciplinary training program for psychology and other mental and behavioral health professionals that provides funds to plan, develop, operate or participate in an accredited program for training mental and behavioral health professionals, especially for vulnerable populations including underrepresented minorities, disadvantaged persons, geriatric and pediatric populations. The funding would also be available for traineeships or fellowships. Of the $60 million available, 15% would be set aside for psychology training; this is the only set-aside in the provision.

In addition, Education GRO supported Public Interest GRO staff, in collaboration with the EWA, to urge the House to include key geriatric health care workforce provisions from S. 245/H.R. 468 and H.R. 7302 in the Tri-Committee draft bill.  While the Senate bill includes several of these APA-supported geriatric workforce provisions, the House draft does not currently include these vital provisions.  However, a planned colloquy between Rep. Schakowsky (D-IL) and Energy & Commerce Chairman Waxman (D-CA) may help to pave the way for inclusion as the process moves forward.