Coalition urges lawmakers to prioritize student loan repayment for infectious diseases workforce

Letter asks Senate to include text from Bolstering Infectious Outbreaks Preparedness Workforce Act in pandemic preparedness legislation

Washington - The American Dental Association and other stakeholders are asking lawmakers to include a new student loan repayment program proposal in pandemic preparedness legislation.

In a Feb. 4 letter to Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Ranking Member Richard Burr, R-N.C., the coalition, led by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, urged the senators to include the text of the bipartisan Bolstering Infectious Outbreaks Preparedness Workforce Act as they continue developing pandemic preparedness legislation.

"As you continue to develop the PREVENT Pandemics Act, we urge you to include the text of the bipartisan Bolstering Infectious Outbreaks Preparedness Workforce Act (S 3244) because the eventual success of your legislation depends upon the availability of a fully staffed, interdisciplinary expert health care workforce focused on bio-preparedness and infectious diseases in every community," the coalition wrote.

If enacted, S 3244 would establish a new student loan repayment program. The bill addresses financial barriers that prevent health care professionals from pursuing careers in bio-preparedness and infectious diseases, including dentists, physicians, pharmacists, physician assistants, advanced practice registered nurses, clinical laboratory professionals and infection preventionists. The bill would make loan repayment available to individuals who spend at least 50% of their time engaged in bio-preparedness and response activities or 50% of their time providing infectious diseases care in medically underserved communities and federally funded facilities. Dentists would be eligible for loan repayment under the infectious disease section of the bill.

"A broad and diverse spectrum of [infectious diseases] and bio-preparedness professionals is vital to a rapid, effective response to [infectious] disease outbreaks and to provide [infectious disease] care," the coalition wrote. "However, bio-preparedness and infectious diseases health care professionals face significant recruitment challenges and shortages."

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