Wolf’s Budget Plan Includes $8.5 Million for Student Loan Forgiveness for Pennsylvania Physicians

There’s some good news for health care in Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget, including more than $8 million to expand the state’s successful loan forgiveness program for physicians. The funds are allocated to support current grant recipients and recruit and retain doctors to work in medically underserved areas in Pennsylvania. The Loan Repayment Program, which was previously administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, was also transferred to the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA).

“We are encouraged by the proposed increase in loan repayment for physicians and look forward to working with the Governor and his team to expand this vital program to keep physicians in Pennsylvania,” said Michael R. Fraser, Executive Vice President of the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED). “In addition, there is a lot of other good news for physicians and the health of Pennsylvania overall in the Governor’s budget.  Of course now the issue becomes how to pay for it and move it forward with the General Assembly.”

Other wins forhealth care in Gov. Wolf’s budget plan include:

  • $2.5 million increase to Behavioral Health Services and a $5 million increase to the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to provide additional services to address heroin and opioid addiction.
  • $2.1 million to implement the controlled substances database, known as the Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions (ABC-MAP) program. Learn more about the database, which will give Pennsylvania physicians better knowledge of prescriptions written for and filled by a patient.
  • $3.8 million increase to reopen state health centers in counties where centers were closed
  • $3 million to develop a State Health Care Innovation Plan for a multi-payer payment and health delivery system transformation. The Department of Health also received another $3 million in federal funding for health care innovation.
  • $100,000 to develop a statewide Natural Gas Fracking Health Registry to monitor the health of individuals who reside near natural gas fracking operations.
  • $2.7 million to continue the operation of the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4), which continues to operate under an executive order.

While the sales tax initiative includes broadening the sales tax application to include some professional services, physician services were not included in Wolf’s tax proposal.

Gov. Wolf projects that his plan to expand Medicaid will save Pennsylvania $500 million next year.

Andy Carter, president and CEO of the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), said in a media article that the association is working to ensure a smooth Medicaid transition, but is disappointed at the hospital funding cuts.

These cuts include eliminating $17.5 million in state funding and $19 million in federal funding for hospital supplemental payments for burn centers, obstetrical and neonatal units and rural critical access hospitals.

PAMED will be giving the budget a close look, and analyzing it for its impact on Pennsylvania physicians and patients.