Key Obamacare Panel on Healthcare Shortage Never Met

Wednesday, 30 Jan 2013 09:41 AM

By Melanie Gray

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A special panel created by Obamacare to address a shortage of healthcare providers was never funded by Congress and has never met, according to a report Wednesday in Politico.

The National Health Care Workforce Commission was supposed to compile recommendations to address the problem before the healthcare law takes full effect next year, requiring all Americans to have health coverage.

The 15-member panel's chairman, Sheldon Retchin, called Congress' failure to allocate the $3 million to activate the commission "an opportunity missed."

"It sure seems like a national blind spot," Retchin, chief executive officer of the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, told Politico.

The point of creating the commission was to figure out how to meet the higher demand for primary care services in rural and other “medically underserved” areas of the country. The panel was supposed to focus specifically on the nursing and mental health workforce, healthcare education and loan programs to help attract doctors.

Recommendations were to be sent to Congress and the White House based on the panel's work, Politico noted.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders brought up Congress' failure to activate the commission at a hearing on Tuesday, where he highlighted a report estimating that 57 million Americans lack ready access to primary care.

“In order for the promise of expanded coverage passed into law . . . to become a reality, the provisions designed to reach those goals must be fully funded and implemented,” Sanders wrote in the report. “We need to make sure that our health care system has the infrastructure in place to provide the care necessary to prevent diseases and improve the health of all Americans.”

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