By David Bergman, JD, AACOM Vice President of Government Relations
At the beginning of the year, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) introduced its Public Policy Agenda for the 117th Congress, which outlines the association’s federal advocacy priorities that will ensure osteopathic medical education (OME) continues to actively impact national health and higher education policies. AACOM and ED to MED remain committed to advocating for the federal financial aid and loan forgiveness programs that health professions students rely on, and that are vital to increasing access to healthcare across all patient communities.
The 2020 election resulted in new congressional committee leadership relevant to OME and health professions education. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which has jurisdiction over our country’s healthcare, student loan and education issues, will be chaired by US Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). Senator Murray previously served as the committee’s Ranking Member. In this role, she worked closely with the committee’s past chair, US Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), on attempting a bipartisan reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The HEA governs federal financial aid and loan forgiveness programs that help health professions students finance their education, including the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program and the Federal Direct Graduate PLUS (Grad PLUS) Loan Program. Both PSLF and Grad PLUS remain priority programs for AACOM and ED to MED. With Senator Alexander’s retirement and the Senate flip to Democratic control, Senator Murray will need to negotiate with Senate HELP’s new Republican Ranking Member to reauthorize the HEA.
ED to MED calls on you, our advocates, to continue raising awareness of the importance of PSLF and Grad PLUS to your Members of Congress. It’s crucial that we educate new congressional members about the impact HEA has on our nation’s higher education landscape and healthcare workforce so that we can protect these critical programs that help advance patient care.
As our country continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of supporting federal policies and programs that reduce graduate student debt, address the physician shortage and contribute to more equitable access to healthcare is more vital than ever. AACOM appreciates the Biden-Harris Administration’s extension of the pause on student loan debt repayments and 0 percent interest through September 30, 2021 and looks forward to our continued advocacy on behalf of critical measures that advance our nation’s healthcare delivery system and support health professions students.