State Releases Details on Increased Loan Forgiveness and More Residency Slots

The 2014-2015 state budget included a $1 million increase in the state’s Primary Health Care Practitioner Program. 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.

The state recently released details on the revised loan repayment program, including the official Request for Applications (RFA), which will be accepted until 11:59 PM on Dec. 4, 2014.

Here are some of the key highlights taken from the RFA regarding the newly enhanced program:

  • Full-time physicians and dentists are now eligible to receive up to $100,000 in exchange for serving two years in a federally-designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) or serving a minimum of 30 percent low-income patients in Pennsylvania. Full-time certified registered nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, physician assistants, registered dental hygienists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, licensed professional counselors, and marriage and family therapists are eligible for awards up to $60,000 for a similar two-year commitment. The maximum grant awards for half-time practitioners are half of the amounts above, respectively.
  • There are a limited number of loan repayment awards available. It will be competitive, with consideration first given to community need/type of practice site, HPSA designation, and service to low-income/underserved populations. Priority will then be given to applicants who are residents of Pennsylvania, are graduates of Pennsylvania institutes of education, have experience practicing in an underserved area, or have successfully completed a federal or state service commitment for primary care loan repayment.
  • 50 percent of the awards will go to primary care medical practitioners, 25 percent will go to dental practitioners, and 25 percent will go to behavioral and mental health practitioners.
  • In order to qualify for the Loan Repayment Program (LRP), applicants must have been continuously employed (full or half time) since July 1, 2014, at a practice site approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH). Practitioner applications cannot be submitted until the practice site at which the practitioner is working is LRP-approved and is available in the drop-down menu within the application. (Information on currently-approved practice sites and application for site approval is on page 12-13 of the RFA).
  • Practitioner applications will be accepted from Oct. 22 through Dec. 4, 2014. The anticipated grant agreement term is July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2016, subject to the availability of funding.
  • The online application for the LRP can be found on DOH’s website.
  • Questions regarding RFA must be directed in writing to no later than Nov. 5, 2014. Answers to all questions received and revised RFA information will be posted on the Department of Health’s website.
  • Under the Primary Health Practitioner Program, DOH will be funding nine new family medicine residency slots.

Gov. Corbett proposed increased residency slots and enhancement of the loan repayment program as part of his 2014-2015 budget proposal to the General Assembly. These changes will put Pennsylvania’s medical student loan repayment program on par with those of neighboring states. They are in line with PAMED’s recommendations for improving access to care by attracting and retaining more physicians to practice in medically underserved areas of the state.

Pennsylvania physicians and physicians-in-training, along with PAMED, advocated for loan repayment assurance as a strategy to retain more physicians and meet the commonwealth’s growing health care needs.