House panel passes healthcare training bill

A federal program to prepare low-income individuals for good-paying healthcare careers would see its federal funding quintupled — from $85 million to $425 million annually — under a bill passed this week by the House Ways and Means Committee.

The Pathways to Health Careers Act (H.R. 3398), which would reauthorize the Health Professions Opportunities Grants (HPOG) program, passed along party lines, 24-16, on Tuesday. The bill will likely be brought up for a House floor vote in the next few weeks. There is no companion measure yet in the Senate.

HPOG also provides adult basic education to individuals before they enter health professions programs, as well as support services, such as childcare, transportation, career coaching and mentoring, and job placement. These have been key to HPOG’s success, according to supporters.

“The HPOG approach increases the number of qualified health professionals in both rural and urban areas in need of more workers,” according to a fact sheet from committee Democrats.

The American Association of Community Colleges is among the organizations that support the bill.

A synopsis of success

To date, HPOG has served more than 60,000 participants, according to the committee. Almost half (46 percent) of them have a high school diploma or less, and more than 90 percent are women.

Supporters of the program note that HPOG provides a career path, for example, beginning with the certified nursing assistant certification and moving toward a licensed practical nursing degree and then a registered nursing degree. One-quarter of participants completed an entry-level training and moved on to a higher level, the committee said.

Among participants in the first round of the grants from 2010 to 2015, 15 percent of those who got jobs in healthcare received wage increases right away. In the second round from 2015 to 2020, two-thirds (67 percent) of participants who completed training in the first three years also pursued and attained a professional license or certification in the first three years.

The bill also would guarantee that each state receives at least two of the five-year grants. Twenty-nine states currently don’t have any HPOG programs, according to Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-New Jersey), whose bill to remedy that was folded into the legislation.

Bergen Community College’s health professions program could be bolstered by the formation of HPOG programs in New Jersey, as many hopeful candidates would receive the support they need to take that next step in their career training,” Pascrell said in a press release.

Community colleges in eight states participate in the HPOG program, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.