Recovery act funding to boost care in needy communities, relieve medical student debt

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has made available nearly $200 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support student loan repayments for primary care medical, dental and mental health clinicians who want to work at National Health Service Corps sites.

In exchange for the loan repayments, clinicians serve for two years with the NHSC. The new funds are expected to double the number of clinicians in the program and make 3,300 awards to clinicians who serve in health centers, rural health clinics and other healthcare facilities that care for uninsured and underserved people.

“The recovery act has laid the foundation for health reform and is supporting our effort to give more people access to the quality, affordable care they need,” Sebelius said. “(The) National Health Service Corps has helped protect the health and well-being of millions of Americans. Now we are doubling the corps and putting doctors and clinicians in the communities where they are desperately needed.”

Sebelius recently held a discussion with healthcare experts and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick on the importance of health reform.

“As we await a national healthcare reform plan, a careful look at Massachusetts’ historic efforts to obtain near-universal health insurance coverage offers valuable insights into what we can achieve as a nation,” Patrick said. “Recovery act funding for student loan repayments will further support our reform efforts by helping to deliver care to the communities where it’s needed most.”

“The healthcare professionals who heed this call to serve will join thousands of dedicated NHSC primary care clinicians already in the field,” said Mary Wakefield, PhD, RN, the administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, which oversees the NHSC at HHS. “These funds will double both the number of corps clinicians and the number of patients they care for and spark economic growth in communities hit hard by the economic downturn.”

Since its inception nearly 40 years ago, the NHSC has provided scholarships and loan repayments for more than 30,000 doctors, dentists and other health professionals who provide healthcare in the most geographically isolated and economically distressed regions of the country.

Sebelius encouraged fully trained health professionals who are dedicated to working with the underserved and have qualifying educational loans to apply for this opportunity. In addition to $50,000 for loan repayment, she said, each clinician receives a competitive salary and a chance to have a significant impact on a community.

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