U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today said they are backing legislation that protects important nursing training programs that are potentially facing severe funding cuts.
The Nursing and Allied Health Education Preservation Act responds to a recent reinterpretation by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) of regulations governing the reimbursement of hospital-operated nursing education programs. This change could put many of these programs in jeopardy by reducing their Medicare payments for nurse training.
“At a time when the country is experiencing a nursing shortage, CMS should not be cutting payments for nursing education programs,” said Alexander, the lead Republican on the bill. “This bill does the right thing by protecting the $9.6 million that Tennessee hospitals receive to support training for nurses. We need to make sure we are doing all we can to encourage more students to enter the nursing field rather than cutting support from these programs.”
“It is more important than ever that we protect vital funding sources for our nursing programs, as nearly all of Tennessee’s 160 hospitals are facing a nursing shortage that has more than doubled in the past 10 years,” said Corker. “Hospital-based nursing programs like Baptist and Methodist in Memphis and Ft. Sanders Regional in Knoxville train the health care professionals that are essential to the care of so many Tennesseans.”
According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the number of registered nurses is projected to fall a million short of estimated needs by 2020. In order to meet the nursing demands of aging baby boomers, this bill would encourage the nursing industry by ensuring that Medicare continues to fund nursing education provided through hospitals.
In 2005, Medicare paid $172 million to support the education of nurses at more than 250 hospitals across the country. Many of these hospitals have been educating nurses for decades, some for more than a century. However, CMS is moving to revoke the Medicare reimbursement of at least four hospital-operated programs. Alexander and Corker said that, by narrowly interpreting the regulations that govern nursing school reimbursement, CMS’ actions place other similarly situated programs at risk.
The Nursing and Allied Health Education Preservation Act (S. 3468) was introduced by Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).