Members of Congress want to close the gap on the Central Valley’s physician shortage with incentives to forgive student loans.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Josh Harder D-Turlock asked a letter to the United States Department of Education Monday that California doctors working for nonprofits qualify for its public service student loan waiver program.
The program, created by the administration of former President Barack Obama, offers a student loan discount to people working for nonprofits in various fields, including medicine, if they have paid their loans on time since. a decade.
But the program’s rules conflict with laws in the states of California and Texas that prevent physicians from being directly employed by most nonprofit hospitals, which excludes many physicians.
California law prohibits doctors from being directly employed by private health care companies. State law seeks to separate corporate interests from medical decisions. Doctors are hired as staff members of a hospital rather than by the organization itself. Only certain rural hospitals are exempt from the rule.
Feinstein and Harder called on the agency to allow all doctors working in hospitals and nonprofit healthcare facilities to qualify, even if they are not directly employed by the organizations, to attract more doctors in low-income and rural communities that depend on these settlements, such as the Central Valley.
“COVID has been a perfect example of why we have to do this,” Harder said in an interview with The Modesto Bee on Tuesday. “If you’ve had a heart attack or other emergency during the pandemic, you may not be getting the fast, quality care you need because we don’t have enough doctors. “
The Central Valley currently has 157 doctors per 100,000 population while the Bay Area has 411 for the same number, according to figures released by the office of California Governor Gavin Newsom.
The change could bring around 10,000 new doctors to the Central Valley over the next decade, as estimated by the California Medical Association, who approves the Senator’s and Congressman’s bills that match the change requested in their letter. The association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Feinstein and Harder introduced these bills – titled “Tackling the Physician Shortage ActAnd co-sponsored by dozens of other members on both sides of the political aisle – in tandem with their respective chambers in 2020 and reintroduced them in 2021. The bills, which would make the same change as the one they requested from the Ministry of Education in their letter, are still under consideration.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education, which is currently reviewing the program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Even if the agency makes the change, lawmakers want to pass the bill to make it harder for a future presidential administration that may be interested in ending the loan cancellation program to retract from the law, said Harder.
Updating the federal loan cancellation is one of many goals at the federal, state and local levels to attract more physicians to the Central Valley, including supporting initiatives to inspire Modesto students to practice. medicine, building a new University of California, Merced School of Medicine, and get more residency programs in the area.
Harder hopes the loan incentives will install the last segment of a pipeline of doctors from the Central Valley to stay there, because “we need more ‘culturally competent’ doctors who actually understand the valley,” he said. -he declares.