The debate about health care is gaining momentum, yet the central focus has been coverage for the uninsured.  Guaranteeing access to quality, affordable coverage for every American is crucial, but the conversation can’t stop with expanding access to insurance.  America is already facing a critical shortage in primary care providers.  Unless we fix this problem, we will not even have the workforce needed to care for those who are already insured.

According to a report issued by the American College of Physicians, “primary care, the backbone of the nation's health care system, is at grave risk of collapse.”  The report predicts that by 2020 the nation will need at least 40 percent more primary physicians.  Additionally, studies by the Center for Evaluative Clinical Sciences at Dartmouth and the Commonwealth Fund have shown populations with access to primary care physicians boast lower overall costs, as well as improved health outcomes.

To combat this critical shortage, I’ve introduced the Preserving Patient Access to Primary Care Act, co-sponsored by Senators Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Ryan: Graham-Cassidy 'best, last chance' to repeal ObamaCare Collins skeptical of new ObamaCare repeal effort MORE (R-ME) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseJuan Williams: Momentum builds against gerrymandering Overnight Regulation: FTC launches probe into Equifax | Dems propose tougher data security rules | NYC aims to slash greenhouse gas emissions | EPA to reconsider Obama coal ash rule Overnight Cybersecurity: Kaspersky to testify before House | US sanctions Iranians over cyberattacks | Equifax reveals flaw that led to hack MORE (D-RI).  The legislation would establish scholarships and loan forgiveness for medical students committing to primary care service in critical shortage areas, create grants for medical school mentorship programs and primary care training in community health centers, and enact Medicare payment reforms that support primary care providers and patients, including the creation of Patient Centered Medical Homes.  This is a companion bill to legislation proposed in the House by Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA).