National Health Service Corps invests in care to underserved areas

In past years, the National Health Service Corps, which offers loan repayment and scholarships in return for service in underserved communities, found it hard to provide enough primary-care physicians to medically underserved areas due to lack of funding, American Medical News reports.

But thanks to an infusion of $1.5 billion from the health reform law, and another $300 million from the 2009 economic stimulus package, the program will be able to offer 4,200--or five times as many--loan repayment awards and scholarships in FY 2011 as it did in FY 2009. The extra burst of health reform money is expected to last through 2015.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told American Medical News that the NHSC training program is one way to get preventive care to as many Americans as possible. It also addresses the shortage of primary-care doctors.

As of the end of September 2010, the NHSC consisted of a network of 7,500 primary-care professionals at 10,000 sites in underserved communities around the country. In places designated as primary-care shortage areas, the ratio of patients to doctors may be 3,000 to 1, compared with the national average of 2,000 to 1.

Clinicians can receive up to $170,000 in loan repayments after completing a five-year service commitment, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.

To learn more:
- see American Medical News' interactive map that shows states with the largest shortages of primary care doctors
- learn more about the National Health Service Corps
- here is the American Medical News article

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