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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Public Health, Workforce, Quality, and Related Provisions in H.R. 3962

C. Stephen Redhead, Coordinator
Specialist in Health Policy

Health care reform is at the top of the domestic policy agenda for the 111th Congress, driven by concerns about the growing ranks of the uninsured and the unsustainable growth in spending on health care and health insurance. Improving access to care and controlling rising costs are seen to require changes to both the financing and delivery of health care. Experts point to a growing body of evidence of the health care system's failure to consistently provide high-quality care to all Americans. 

The health reform debate has encompassed a number of proposals to address these challenges and improve the delivery of health care services. They include initiatives to encourage individuals to adopt healthier lifestyles, and to change the way that physicians and other providers treat and manage disease. Delivery reform proposals focus on expanding the primary care workforce, encouraging the use of clinical preventive services, and strengthening the role of chronic care management. Health care delivery reform relies on putting mechanisms in place to drive change in the systems of care. Key drivers include performance measurement and the public dissemination of performance information, comparative effectiveness research, adoption of health information technology, and, most important, the alignment of payment incentives with highquality care. In February 2009, Congress enacted the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act to promote the widespread adoption of electronic health records for sharing of clinical data among hospitals, physicians, and other health care stakeholders. 

On November 7, 2009, by a vote of 220-215, the House passed a comprehensive health reform bill, the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962). The legislation, introduced by Representative Dingell on October 29, 2009, is based on an earlier measure, the America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (H.R. 3200), which was jointly developed and reported by the House Committees on Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor. This report, one of a series of CRS products on H.R. 3962, summarizes the bill's workforce, prevention, quality, and related provisions. 

H.R. 3962 includes numerous provisions intended to increase the primary care and public health workforce, promote preventive services, and strengthen quality measurement, among other things. The legislation would amend and expand on many of the existing health workforce programs authorized under Title VII (health professions) and Title VIII (nursing) of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA). It would create a Public Health Workforce Corps and establish a new loan repayment program, modeled on the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), for individuals who agree to practice in medically underserved areas with unmet health care needs. The bill also would make a number of changes to the Medicare graduate medical education (GME) payments to teaching hospitals, in part to encourage the training of more primary care physicians. 

In addition, H.R. 3962 would bolster quality improvement activities, including performance measurement, and broaden Medicare and Medicaid coverage of clinical preventive services. The legislation would establish a multi-billion dollar Public Health Investment Fund to provide additional funding for these and other new programs and activities.

Date of Report: January 20, 2010
Number of Pages: 79
Order Number: R40892
Price: $29.95

Document available electronically as a pdf file or in paper form.
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