November 9, 2011 -- Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown and the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board (GWIB) – an independent advisory board under the administration of the Maryland Department of Labor – released detailed plans to increase Maryland’s primary care workforce by as much as 25 percent before 2020. The Lt. Governor released the plan during a press conference in one of Montgomery College’s state-of-the-art health sciences classrooms. Immediately before the press conference, Lt. Governor Brown, Maryland Labor Secretary Alexander M. Sanchez, Maryland Health Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein and GWIB Chairman Bill Robertson were led on a tour of the College’s Health Sciences Center.
The “Preparing for Reform: Health Care 2020” report was developed with support from a $150,000 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services planning grant and participation from private sector leaders, health advocates, officials from the state’s higher education community, the Hilltop Institute and the Maryland Health Care Reform Coordinating Council (HCRCC), which Lt. Governor Brown co-chairs. The plan builds on the GWIB’s well-established sector initiatives model and sought input from stakeholders at public forums across the state. During his comments, Lt. Governor Brown noted that the health care industry added nearly 12,000 from the first quarter of 2009 to the first quarter of 2011, the most recent quarter for which complete data is available. Over that time, health care was the second fastest growing industry in Maryland.
“Health care reform provides an opportunity to reduce costs and improve the quality of care while expanding access to health insurance to thousands of Marylanders,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “We must be sure our primary care providers are prepared to handle the influx of new patients, and the Health Care 2020 plan will serve as a blueprint to help dramatically increase the ranks of Maryland’s primary care workforce.”
The plan sets four broad goals to provide comprehensive primary care workforce planning and analysis, strengthen primary care workforce capacity, address primary care workforce distribution and reduce service shortage areas and reexamine practitioner compensation for high-quality care. The plan specifically recommends that the state establish a primary care workforce website that includes data, maps and job opportunities, support educational and training mechanisms to expand Maryland’s health care workforce pipeline and expand the state’s patient-centered medical home program.
“Maryland’s workforce is among the best-educated and most highly skilled in the United States and we have a strong and growing health care workforce,” said Maryland Labor Secretary Alexander M. Sanchez. “To reach our goal of building a national model for the implementation of federal health reform, we need to build upon our strengths and expand our community of primary care workers. The Health Care 2020 plan will guide our efforts to train new nurses and physician assistants and make good on our promise to expand coverage, lower costs and improve the quality of care for all Marylanders.”
“When illness strikes, access to care means getting an appointment,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “Growing the workforce expands the opportunities available for Marylanders to receive needed health services.”
According to independent reports from the Hilltop Institution, federal health reform will save Maryland $850 million over 10 years and cut in half the number of uninsured Marylanders. The federal legislation requires an expanded community of primary care providers and health care workers, especially in underserved communities.
“As Federal health care reform expands health insurance coverage for the residents of Maryland, it is crucial that we plan and act to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of primary care providers to meet the health care needs of all Marylanders,” said Bill Robertson, CEO of Adventist Health Care and chairman of the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board. “This plan, developed with broad input from across the State, is an excellent start on the work necessary to ensure the availability for primary care providers to the people of this great State.”
“Montgomery College prides itself on preparing students to excel in the healthcare industry,” said Dr. DeRionne Pollard, president of Montgomery College. “In addition to nursing, we offer an array of credit and noncredit health programs, including nursing assistants, polysomnographers (also known as sleep technologists), and surgical technicians. We stand ready and willing to partner on this exciting endeavor to grow our state’s health care workforce.”
Since taking office in 2007, the O’Malley-Brown administration has championed a series of reforms and initiatives similar to some components of the Affordable Care Act that have helped expand health coverage to over 289,000 uninsured Marylanders, including 100,000 children. These initiatives include incentives to small business owners to provide insurance for employees, the expansion of Medicaid eligibility to low-income parents, new laws that allow young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance plan up to the age of 25, and a program that helps close the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole.
Governor O’Malley created the HCRCC through Executive Order in March 2010 to advise the Administration on policies and procedures to implement the Affordable Care Act as efficiently and effectively as possible. As states assume the critical role of implementing multiple aspects of health care reform, the Council will continue to make policy recommendations and offer implementation strategies to keep Maryland among the leading states in expanding quality, affordable health care while reducing waste and controlling costs.
Upon taking office in 2007, Governor O’Malley tasked Lt. Governor Brown to lead the O’Malley-Brown administration’s health care portfolio. During the 2010 legislative session, Brown championed efforts to pass the Maryland False Health Claims Act, which helped the state recover in FY11 over $46.5 million of Medicaid funds that were stolen from taxpayers. Brown also led efforts to create the Patient Centered Medical Home program that offers providers incentives to spend more time with patients and focus more closely on preventative care, and launched the Healthiest Maryland Initiative that partners with employers and community leaders to encourage healthier lifestyles. Earlier this year, Brown and the HCRCC championed the administration’s work to establish a health benefits exchange.
Montgomery College is a public, open admissions community college with campuses in Germantown, Rockville, and Takoma Park/Silver Spring, plus workforce development/continuing education centers and off-site programs throughout Montgomery County, Md. The College serves nearly 60,000 students a year, through both credit and noncredit programs, in more than 100 areas of study.