Access to primary and preventative health care is critical to improving and maintaining health. In Florida, the challenge is compounded by a shortage of health care providers — especially in low-income urban and rural communities. According to America’s Health Rankings 2019 Annual Report, with a population of more than 21 million, Florida has only about 131 primary care physicians for every 100,000 individuals – a figure below the national average.
To address these critical needs, the United Health Foundation has committed $1.7 million to improve access to primary care in Florida. A three-year partnership with the Health Care Center for the Homeless will train nurse practitioners to meet growing demand for primary care in underserved communities.
Funding from the Foundation supports the creation of a new clinical fellowship program for post-graduate nurse practitioners to receive on-the-job training in complex care management for underserved populations. The program will train nurse practitioner fellows in integrated behavioral health, pediatric care, wound care, medication therapy management, substance use disorder counseling and other urgently needed services. Each of the fellows is expected to manage a panel of up to 700 patients by the end of his or her fellowship.
More than 19% of Americans live in an area with a shortage of primary care providers, and the shortfall is projected to reach between 20,000 and 55,000 over the next decade.
Advanced care practitioners, including the 89% of nurse practitioners who are trained in primary care, can play a large role in addressing this shortage.
UnitedHealth Group – including UnitedHealthcare, Optum and the United Health Foundation – is committed to improving existing workforce capacity and building and shaping a health care workforce for the 21st century that meets the unique needs of patients. For example, the United Health Foundation last year established a $1.5 million, three-year partnership with the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence to recruit and support 39 advanced practice registered nurse behavioral health fellows to receive their Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) certificates. Upon certification, the 39 PMHNPs will commit to providing behavioral health care services for a minimum of two years in rural areas and support an estimated 3,000 to 12,000 rural Colorado patients annually, increasing rural clinics’ behavioral health care services capacity by approximately 25%.
“Amid a physician shortage, there is an urgent need to grow and train the health workforce to provide care and services tailored to meet the unique needs of individuals,” said Michael Lawton, chief executive officer, Community Plan of Florida, UnitedHealthcare. “Our partnership with Health Care Center for the Homeless and investment in the nurse practitioner workforce will help provide high-quality care to those who need it most.”
"There is an urgent need to grow and train the health workforce to provide care and services tailored to meet the unique needs of individuals."
UnitedHealth Group also has a long-standing commitment to supporting those experiencing homelessness. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Health Foundation launched a $2.5 million partnership with the National Health Care for the Homeless Council to support both urgent, immediate needs at local health care for homeless programs as well as longer-term needs to expand capacity. Several UnitedHealth Group initiatives, including financing affordable housing communities and directly covering the housing costs of individuals experiencing homelessness, have helped thousands of seniors, veterans, individuals with disabilities and others find stable housing.