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Heinrich, Casey Introduce Legislation to Address Health Care Workforce Shortage in New Mexico, Expand Pathways to Health Careers

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) today introduced the Providing Resources and Opportunities for Health Education and Learning (PRO-HEAL) Act, legislation that would tackle the health care provider shortage in New Mexico and nationwide by expanding pathways to high quality, in-demand health care careers that medical professionals can access in their communities.  

Data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts that the U.S. will face a significant shortage of medical providers, with an estimated shortage of up to 139,000 physicians by 2033. If left unaddressed, this gap will affect Americans ability to access health care services, especially in areas where medical resources are currently limited.  

The PRO-HEAL Act aims to address these shortages by incentivizing states and institutions of higher education to expand or create health care provider pipeline programs, particularly in underserved and rural communities. The legislation is inspired by the success of the Combined BA/MD Degree Program at the University of New Mexico, where over 65% of students who have graduated from their program practice medicine in New Mexico.  

“New Mexico’s health care shortage is a serious problem that demands our immediate action. But it also provides an unprecedented opportunity to build careers that more people in our state can access in their own communities for generations to come,” said Heinrich. “By making more federal funding available for states and higher education institutions to expand programs that support students as they complete their education, the PRO-HEAL Act will both support careers New Mexicans can build their families around and help working families access the medical care they need to stay safe and healthy.”   

“If we want to continue to have world class health care in Pennsylvania, we need to start training the next generation of medical professionals today,” said Casey. “The PRO-HEAL Act will further expand Pennsylvania’s health care provider pipeline and help keep communities across our Commonwealth healthy for years to come.” 

Specifically, the PRO-HEAL Act would: 

  • Authorize the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Administrator to award grants to enable states and institutions of higher education to expand or create health care provider pipeline programs. 
  • Make $215 million dollars in grants available to eligible entities for 5 years. 
  • Prioritize grants for programs that are intended to: 
    • Serve underserved or rural communities, 
    • Increase the number of health care professionals who are primary care providers, and 
    • Focus on recruiting students from the state where the program is based. 

This legislation is supported by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.  

“The AAMC is proud to endorse the PRO-HEAL Act, which will be an effective tool to increase patient access to health care by helping to address health care professions shortages nationwide,” said Danielle Turnipseed, JD, MHSA, MPP, AAMC Chief Public Policy Officer. “This new pathway program under the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will create new opportunities through grants that serve rural and underserved communities that often face the most pressing health care needs.” 

“This legislation recognizes the key role that higher education career pathway programs can play in expanding health professional workforce opportunities and improving access to care, particularly when the programs support recruitment and retention from local, medically underserved communities,” said Douglas Ziedonis, MD, MPH, Executive Vice President of UNM Health Sciences and CEO of the UNM Health System. “UNM Health and Health Sciences is an enthusiastic supporter of this effort, and we are particularly pleased that the legislation seeks to build upon successful approaches we have implemented to reach out, engage, listen, educate, and train more health care providers originating from, and returning to practice in rural and Tribal communities in New Mexico.” 

A one-page summary of the bill is here

The text of the bill is here