Dylan Scott is a GOVERNING staff writer.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Health Service Corps, primary care physicians who have received loan repayments and scholarships from the federal government, has nearly tripled its members in three years, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathy Sebelius announced on Thursday.
Thanks to a new set of grants awarded on Thursday, more than 10,000 primary care clinicians will be serving communities that lack access to quality care, Sebelius said in a conference call with reporters, treating about 10.5 million patients in 17,000-NHSC approved sites throughout the country. Three years ago, there were 3,600 NHSC clinicians who reached about 3.7 million people.
Funded through a combination of grants through the stimulus package, the Affordable Care Act and HHS budget appropriations, NHSC gave out 5,418 loan repayment grants, totaling $243 million, in 2011. The program also awarded 247 scholarships, totaling $46 million, through the Affordable Care Act.
The loan repayment program provide an initial, tax-free grant of up to $60,000 for two years of service in a high-need area. Scholarship recipients receive enough money to pay for up to four years of school and pledge to work at least two years in underserved areas.
In total, the Affordable Care Act has set aside $300 million annually over the next five years for NHSC, Becky Spitzgo, associate administrator with the Health Resources and Services Administration, said.
NHSC ensures "underserved rural and urban populations" have access to health care, Sebelius said. That includes yearly physicals, vaccines and basic dental care. About one in five Americans currently lacks access to such care. She also boasted that four out of five NHSC clinicians continue to serve in their area after their obligation has been paid.
"When you don't have access to primary care, small health problems grow into big ones. Chronic conditions that could be managed spiral out of control," Sebelius said. "Here in America, no one should go with the care they need just because of where they live."
Governing has broken down the number of NHSC clinicians in each state below, based on figures from the beginning of fiscal year 2011. Data provided by HRSA.
|State||Total Clinicians||Urban||Rural||Job Vacancies (NHSC-Eligible)|