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Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday called for a health care workforce that “looks like America” and asserted that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the systemic inequities in the health care system.
Harris announced the Biden administration will be investing $1.5 billion from the COVID-19 relief package to tackle the shortage of health care workers in high-risk and underserved communities.
“Our nation must invest in a health care workforce that looks like America, and provide access to equitable health care for all Americans,” Harris said.
The funding will go to the National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps, as well as the Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery programs, all of which offer scholarships and loan repayments for health care students and workers if they pledge to work in underserved and high-risk communities.
“Our administration’s goal here is to address the urgent shortage of doctors, nurses and behavioral health providers in both urban and rural areas,” said Harris.
Regarding the White House’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, Harris said, “The president and I asked members of our task force to advise us not just on COVID-19 disparities, but on how we get at the root of all the disparities in the health care system that we face. And earlier this month, in their final report, the task force laid out clear priorities for our administration and for our nation.”
“COVID-19 did not invent health disparities. Just ask any health care professional, and she will tell you: Health disparities existed long before this virus reached our shores. Health disparities stem from broader systemic inequities,” Harris also said. “What COVID-19 has done is expose these disparities, and it has exasperated these disparities.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.