Senators are eying the growing shortage of health care workers in the United States as one of the few problems where there is room for bipartisan solutions, even in a deeply divided Congress gearing up for a presidential election cycle.
The shortage that’s only worsened since the pandemic is a prescription for skyrocketing costs, suffering, and unnecessary death, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the new chairman of the Senate’s top health committee, warned in his committee’s first hearing Thursday.
“We are going to produce legislation, and I think people will be surprised about the level of bipartisan supporters,” Sanders said in a brief interview during a break from the hearing. He called for the committee to “produce something meaningful.”
The shortage of health care workers of all sorts is a widespread problem, but is especially acute in rural areas and minority communities. Sanders pointed to the startling numbers of Americans living in medical care deserts to illustrate the point. There are nearly 100 million people who don’t have easy access to a primary care physician, almost 70 million with no dentist at hand, and some 158 million people who have few local mental health providers, Sanders said.
The covid-19 pandemic contributed to the nation’s existing worker shortage as many left the workforce as the crisis worsened. Some contracted …