Durbin Announced Inclusion of his Provisions to Address Health Care Disparities & Workforce Shortages in American Rescue Plan

Durbin-authored provisions provide historic investment in scholarship & loan repayment programs to boost pipeline of doctors, nurses, & other clinicians

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that provisions from his bipartisan Strengthening America’s Health Care Readiness Act will be included in the American Rescue Plan. These Durbin-led policies provide $1 billion in scholarship and loan repayment funding for the National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps to address health workforce shortages in underserved areas and tackle health disparities by recruiting from communities of color.  These provisions would support approximately 23,000 health providers—and represents the largest single-year appropriation to our health workforce in history.

“COVID-19 has exposed alarming gaps and disparities in our health system.  That’s why I led the effort to invest in our health heroes by providing scholarship and loan repayment that will bring more doctors and nurses—especially from communities of color—to underserved areas across Illinois and our country.  This historic investment of $1 billion will help shape our health care workforce to increase equity and capacity now and for the future,” Durbin said.

The National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps programs address workforce shortages and health disparities by enticing promising students from diverse backgrounds into health careers in underserved communities by providing scholarship and loan repayment funding in exchange for a service commitment in an urban or rural area.  Hundreds of health providers with the National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps serve in community health centers and hospitals across Illinois.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed health workforce shortfalls, while simultaneously imposing unprecedented strains on America’s heroic frontline health professionals.  A substantial barrier in meeting our nation’s health workforce needs is the student debt associated with graduate health education—which can average more than $200,000.  COVID-19 has also magnified alarming racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes, which can be partially addressed by expanding the representation of minority populations working in health careers.  In 2019, only 6.4 percent of doctors in America identified as Black or Latinx, despite Black and Latinx Americans accounting for 31 percent of the nation’s total population.

The United States is projected to face a shortage of up to 120,000 doctors over the next decade, and the need for an estimated 200,000 new nurses for each of the next several years.  Within these fields, there are significant shortages in both urban and rural communities as well as among specialties, including in primary care and behavioral health.  COVID-19 has upended this equation, with providers being called back into service from retirement, fourth-year medical students being graduated early, and health professionals traveling across state lines to deliver care. 

Durbin’s legislative provisions were supported by the: Illinois Health and Hospital Association (IHA), Illinois Primary Health Care Association (IPHCA), American Medical Association, Association of Clinicians for the Underserved, Association of American Medical Colleges, National Association of Community Health Centers, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, American Dental Association, American Academy of Family Physicians; Physician Assistant Education Association, National Hispanic Medical Association, Council on Social Work Education.