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Senators Promote Palliative Care as NHSC-eligible Primary Care Service

Efforts are under way in Congress to help address the growing need for palliative-care trained medical practitioners.  The latest legislation – The Provider Training in Palliative Care Act (S. 1921) – is aimed at recognizing palliative care medicine as an eligible primary care service under the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) program.  If enacted, the change will encourage training in palliative care and contribute to this important specialty’s availability in rural and underserved areas.

The NHSC, which began in 1972, awards scholarships and loan repayment to primary care providers in eligible disciplines. Becoming a member of the NHSC requires a commitment of at least two years at an NHSC-approved site, located in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA).

“Countless patients facing serious illness or injury can benefit from the practice of palliative care,” said Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV). “Palliative care is an option that does not get the attention it deserves and is proven to improve outcomes as well as reduce the cost of treatment. This bipartisan legislation will help strengthen the skills of our medical workforce in Nevada and across the country to better meet the needs of patients and families in need, especially those in rural and underserved areas.”

“When a patient receives a serious medical diagnosis, the list of symptoms and side effects from the illness and its treatments can be extensive. For those patients, palliative care plays a significant role in minimizing pain and discomfort and maximizing quality of life,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). “By officially recognizing palliative care as a subspecialty of public health services, we’re opening the door for those working in the industry to access the training they need to give their patients the quality care they deserve.  For a state like Alaska, which faces a shortage of palliative care physicians against a rapidly growing aging population, this change in terminology is important.”

In related news, additional legislation related to palliative care education being considered in the 116th Congress enjoys widespread bipartisan support:  H.R. 647, the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA), has 231 cosponsors at this time.  

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