ID Loan Repayment Advances in Senate PREVENT Pandemics Act
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is scheduled on March 15 to mark up the PREVENT Pandemics Act, a package of measures aimed at strengthening our nation’s preparedness for future health emergencies. The bill includes a key provision championed by the Infectious Diseases Society of America and its HIV Medicine Association — the Bio-Preparedness Workforce Pilot Program to provide loan repayment to health care professionals with expertise in infectious diseases and emergency preparedness. The program is intended to help reduce financial barriers to entering ID-related careers and to ensure equitable distribution of expertise in infectious diseases in underserved communities across the country.
“The infectious diseases workforce is the backbone of our nation’s pandemic preparedness and response, but currently nearly 80% of counties in the U.S. do not have a single ID physician. The Bio-Preparedness Workforce Pilot Program is a critical step to help ensure we have the experts we need to build resilience in all communities,” said IDSA President Daniel P. McQuillen, MD, FIDSA.
To be eligible for loan repayment under this provision, a health care professional working in ID or emergency preparedness must be a student or have graduated within the preceding 10 years and must be working in a federal facility (including Ryan White clinics), medically underserved community, health professionals’ shortage area, a tribal facility or another relevant entity as determined by the Department of Health and Human Services. The pilot program included in the PREVENT Pandemics Act would complement the National Health Service Corps, which offers loan repayment for those providing primary care, dental, mental health and substance use treatment.
“This support and incentive to enter the infectious diseases field is critical to ensure every community across the country is prepared for the next pandemic and to end persistent epidemics like HIV and viral hepatitis,” stated HIVMA Chair Marwan Haddad, MD, MPH. “We have the tools to end HIV as an epidemic in the U.S. and to eliminate viral hepatitis but fall short in ensuring these interventions reach everyone who needs them.”
The PREVENT Pandemics Act includes many other provisions supported by IDSA and HIVMA, including provisions to provide loan repayment to individuals working in state and local public health departments, strengthen medical supply chains, accelerate research and medical countermeasure development and improve public health data. The bill also includes an important provision to expand surveillance and laboratory capacity for detecting antimicrobial resistance. However, it fails to more comprehensively address AMR; a separate bipartisan effort focused on antimicrobial resistance, the PASTEUR Act, is currently under consideration.
The PREVENT Pandemics Act must now be considered by the full Senate. Freestanding legislation to establish loan repayment for ID and preparedness experts — the Bolstering Infectious Outbreaks Preparedness Workforce Act — is gaining bipartisan support in the House of Representatives. IDSA and HIVMA urge the chambers to come together to support the next generation of ID health care professionals by advancing much needed loan repayment legislation.