Obama Administration Proposes to Fix Medicaid Funding 'Glitch'

Mar 24, 2014, 9:00 AM

One of the key recommendations in the landmark Institute of Medicine report on the future of nursing is to advance access to primary care by reducing barriers to practice for nurses. Implementation of this recommendation is now one step closer, thanks to a provision in President Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2015, which was released this month.

Obama’s budget includes a provision that would extend an increase in Medicaid payments for primary care providers for one year at a cost of about $5.4 billion, according to an article in USA Today. The extension would, for the first time, apply to nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs).

The Institute of Medicine recommended fixing this Medicaid “glitch” in its report on the future of nursing. The report is the foundation for the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, a national effort backed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and AARP that is working to transform health care through nursing.

Obama’s budget proposal also calls for nearly $4 billion over six years to grow the National Health Services Corps (NHSC) from 8,900 primary care providers to at least 15,000 providers annually, starting in 2015, according to an analysis by the Campaign. Ten percent of the funding would be reserved for NPs and PAs.

“The president’s proposed 2015 budget includes some nursing-related workforce provisions that would increase consumers’ access to primary care and other clinical services,” said Winifred Quinn, MA, PhD, co-director of the Center to Champion Nursing in America (CCNA), an initiative of AARP, the AARP Foundation, and RWJF that is working to increase the nation’s capacity to educate and retain nurses. CCNA coordinates the Campaign for Action.

The Medicaid provision will help curb growing shortages of primary care providers, especially in rural and underserved areas, Quinn said. Shortages are expected to become more acute as demand for primary care services grows as a result of expanded access to Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act.

A larger investment in the NHSC, meanwhile, will increase education funding for primary care and other clinicians, which would, in turn, boost the numbers of physicians and advanced practice registered nurses who provide care in underserved rural and urban areas, Quinn said.

“This is a booster shot unlike any other before now,” Mary Wakefield, PhD, RN, FAAN, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration,  said in the USA Today story.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.