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NEWS: Chairman Sanders Introduces Major Legislation on Primary Care and Announces HELP Markup Next Week

WASHINGTON, July 19 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, on Wednesday issued the following statement after he introduced major legislation to overhaul the primary health care system in America:

“As every American knows, our country faces a major crisis in primary care and a massive shortage of doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and dentists. Tens of millions of Americans live in communities where they cannot find a doctor while others have to wait months to be seen. At the end of the day, this crisis not only increases human suffering and unnecessary deaths, but wastes tens of billions a year as Americans flock to expensive ER rooms or hospitals because they could not access the primary care they need. The HELP Committee is in a unique position to address these long-standing issues, and that is precisely what we will do on July 26th.

“The legislation being introduced today will invest $20 billion a year over a five-year period to expand community health centers and provide the resources necessary to recruit, train, and retain tens of thousands of primary care doctors, mental health providers, nurses, dentists, and home health care workers. It will be paid for by cutting a fraction of the enormous waste and abuse in our health care system and reduce what Americans pay for some of the most expensive prescription drugs on the market.

“Every major medical organization agrees that our investment in primary health care is woefully inadequate as we invest less than half of what other major countries spend on primary health care. They understand that investing in disease prevention and providing Americans with a medical home will not only save lives, it will save money.

“I look forward to working with all of my colleagues on the HELP Committee to pass a bipartisan primary care bill on July 26th.”

The markup of the legislation will occur at 10:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, July 26, 2023 in the HELP Committee.

Tess Stack Kuenning, President and CEO of Bi-State Primary Care Association, said in a statement: “We applaud Senator Sanders for his vision to expand and deepen essential workforce initiatives and comprehensive team based primary care including medical, dental, and oral health services provided through Community Health Centers across our nation. Senator Sanders proposes to greatly expand the number of doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners, and nurses, as well as expanding loan repayment and teaching health center opportunities to begin to fill our nations primary care gap. At this time, our nation’s health care system is under significant stress, and these resources will begin to alleviate and meet the need. We extend our sincere gratitude to Senator Sanders for this proposal.”

Amanda Pears Kelly, CEO of Advocates for Community Health (ACH), said about the bill: “We are deeply grateful for Senator Sanders’ continued commitment to making a bold investment in community health centers. Support of these hyper-local health care hubs has historically been bipartisan, and we are eager to see champions on both sides of the aisle come together to ensure health centers can fulfill their mission to bring critical, comprehensive care to underserved communities nationwide. This funding would enable vital support and pathways to expand a severely strained health care workforce in rural and underserved communities. It also positions 1,400 community health centers across the country to not only navigate the unprecedented challenges they currently face, but also bolster resources to provide care to millions who lack access in addition to the more than the 30 million patients they currently serve each year. Health centers are a proven solution to the health inequities in our nation, and we stand ready to work with leaders in Congress to design a bipartisan agreement that will empower the community health center program for years to come.”

To read the bill, click here.
To read a summary of the bill, click here.