HHS Announces $290M Loan Program for Docs in Underserved Areas

John Commins, November 23, 2010

The federal government on Monday unveiled a $290 million loan repayment program that could reimburse primary care physicians and dentists up to $60,000 if they agree to practice for two years in medically underserved areas.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the launch of the application cycle for the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program, during a visit to Total Health Care, a community health center in Baltimore.

"As we continue to seek ways to impact both the primary care workforce shortage and the increasing debt burden on new providers, NHSC serves as a model for addressing both challenges simultaneously," Sebelius said. "Increasing access to primary care physicians who can support the physical and mental well-being of individuals can help prevent disease and illness, and ensure everyone—regardless of where they live—has access to comprehensive, high quality care."

The Affordable Care Act provides more flexibility in how the Corps administers the loan repayments. In addition to raising monetary awards, the Corps will give members the option of working half-time to fulfill their service obligation and provide credit for some teaching hours, HHS said.

"By the end of FY2011, we expect that over 10,800 clinicians will be caring for more than 11 million people, more than tripling the National Health Service Corps since 2008," says NHSC Director Rebecca Spitzgo. "By 2015, with the historic funding opportunities offered by ARRA and the Affordable Care Act, the Corps will support more than 15,000 new primary care professionals."

Providers can apply to the NHSC loan repayment program online.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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