New Orleans fights doctor flight with loan paybacks

New Orleans physicians have been struggling since Hurricane Katrina, with practices and hospitals closed and the list of uninsured patients remaining high. Under these conditions, it's hardly surprising that they would want to leave the city. But the city doesn't want to see them go. So with the help of the state of Louisiana and the federal government, the city has developed a program which pays them to stay. The Greater New Orleans Health Services Corps has begun offering incentives of up to $110,000, including both student loan repayments and income guarantees, to doctors, dentists and other medical pros who will stay. To get the money, medical professionals must agree to stay in the area for three years, and Medicaid, Medicare and uninsured patients must make up at least one-third of their practice. To date, the program has already made 81 awards, to a group including primary care physicians, gynecologists, psychiatrists, dentists, nurses and counselors.

The program is funded with $15 million in federal dollars. Federal officials will be funneling in another $35 million to help the state recruit and retain a variety of health professionals, including nurses, pharmacists, doctors, dentists and med school faculty members.

To learn more about the program:
- read this piece in The Times-Picayune