Legislation from U.S. Reps. Lori Trahan (D-MA) and David B. McKinley (R-WV) will be considered in an upcoming hearing hosted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee, the legislators said Monday.
The Bolstering Infectious Outbreaks (BIO) Preparedness Workforce Act seeks to strengthen the bio-preparedness and infectious disease workforce – a workforce that has been increasingly important during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on the glaring need for improvements in our nation’s pandemic preparedness and response,” Trahan, co-founder of the Congressional Pandemic Preparedness Caucus, said. “Fewer areas are more apparent than the woefully inadequate number of physicians trained specifically to prepare for outbreaks of infectious diseases and treat patients who contract them. Congress has an obligation to ensure we’re never caught flat-footed by a pandemic again, and my bipartisan legislation with Congressman McKinley is a key component of that effort.”
The bill will go before the subcommittee as part of a hearing on “Caring for America: Legislation to Support Patients, Caregivers and Providers.” A number of bills, including the BIO Act, that will be considered would solidify America’s ability to prepare for and respond to future pandemics by increasing the number of infectious disease physicians and shoring up bio-preparedness. The legislation would create a loan repayment program for health care professionals who spend at least half of their time engaged in bio-preparedness and response activities or in providing infectious disease care.
Qualified health care providers would be required to fulfill those requirements for three years for up to $50,000 in loan forgiveness annually.
“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted our nation’s shortage of infectious disease and public health professionals, especially in rural states like West Virginia,” McKinley said. “The BIO Preparedness Workforce Act will help America learn from our mistakes. There will be future pandemics, and we need to ensure our health care workforce is prepared so we will not be caught off-guard again. This bill will ensure America is developing the next generation of infectious disease specialists, and even rural states like West Virginia will have access.”