According to the Association of American Medical College’s Medical Student Education: Costs, Debt, and Loan Repayment Fact Sheet, medical student debt has skyrocketed to an average of $169,901, not including premedical education debt. This significant financial burden not only affects medical students, but the entire health care system. Pennsylvania already faces critical statewide physician shortages, particularly in underserved areas.
Loan forgiveness opportunities are an attractive way to entice new graduates to stay and practice in Pennsylvania. In a recent outline of this issue for policymakers, the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) emphasized that it supports both increased opportunities for medical student loan forgiveness and the creation of additional residency slots as ways to reduce student loan debt and bolster the physician supply in Pennsylvania.
Gov. Tom Corbett’s 2014-2015 state budget includes a $1 million increase in the Primary Care Practitioner appropriation. This funding — a more than 27 percent increase from the previous year — will provide additional opportunities for medical student loan forgiveness and create new primary care residency slots.
On June 2, PAMED and 17 specialty societies sent a letter to legislators urging them to keep this funding in the final budget.
“As a result of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), approximately 160,000 Pennsylvanians obtained health insurance through the federally-facilitated marketplace, further increasing the demand for access to quality, affordable health care,” said PAMED President Bruce MacLeod, MD. “But, access to insurance does not always equal access to physicians and other providers. That’s why it is imperative that other aspects of Healthy PA, such as medical student loan forgiveness and increasing residency slots, particularly in the primary care physician specialties, be addressed.”