November 15, 2019

Congress to Consider Bipartisan Bills to Diversify Healthcare Workforce

A bill to diversify the allied health professional workforce passed unanimously in the U.S. House of Representatives as part of the Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency and Readiness for Health Act of 2019, and was introduced in the U.S. Senate on October 30. Meanwhile, H.R. 3637, known as the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act of 2019, “allows the Department of Health and Human Services to provide grants to accredited education programs to increase diversity in the physical therapy, occupational therapy, audiology, and speech-language pathology professions.” According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, the population of people treated by allied health professionals is far more diverse than the professionals treating them. For example, 92% of occupational therapists surveyed in 2015 identified as Caucasian. The bill’s co-sponsors in the Senate, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have focused on the connection between a “diverse, abundant and well-trained health care workforce” and quality healthcare outcomes, with a particular focus on struggles relating to provider shortages in rural areas.