PAMED and 17 Specialty Groups Urge PA Legislature to Improve Loan Forgiveness and Expand Residency Slots

The Pennsylvania Medical Society and 17 specialty societies sent a letter to the Pennsylvania General Assembly on June 2, 2014, advocating to keep funding in the state budget for the enhanced medical student loan forgiveness program and for additional primary care residency slots.

Pennsylvania currently faces a critical shortage of physicians in rural and urban medically underserved areas. This is only expected to get worse as our population ages and the number of newly insured increases under the Affordable Care Act. Read the Pennsylvania Medical Society’s (PAMED’s) recent outline of this issue for policymakers.

Pennsylvania’s Primary Health Care Loan Repayment Program has historically provided physicians with up to $64,000 in loan repayment in exchange for a four-year commitment to serve in a medically underserved area. Yet, with the average medical graduate carrying $169,901 in debt, many young physicians leave Pennsylvania to practice in states that offer nearly twice the incentive and higher compensation.

Loan forgiveness opportunities are an attractive way to entice new graduates to stay and practice in Pennsylvania. More generous loan repayment options also would align us closer to those offered in neighboring states.

“In order to ensure that all Pennsylvanians have access to quality, affordable health care, it is imperative that we take the necessary steps now to strengthen our physician workforce for the future,” said the groups in the letter.

Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget proposal for 2014-2015 includes a $4 million increase in funding for an enhanced medical student loan forgiveness program. The additional funds would provide for enhanced medical student loan forgiveness for 70 health care practitioners and would fund the creation of an additional 12 primary care residency slots for medical school graduates who commit to practicing in rural Pennsylvania.

Urge lawmakers and Gov. Corbett to keep this important funding in the final budget.

PAMED’s annual Advocacy Day for medical students, residents, and fellows, held April 29 at the Capitol in Harrisburg, focused on the importance of medical student loan forgiveness and residency slots.

While medical students and residents appreciated the universally positive response from legislators, it was somewhat tempered by a reality check on how difficult it will be to keep the additional funds proposed by Gov. Corbett in the budget for the next fiscal year.

“Now is the time to invest in valuable, commonsense programs that will attract and retain physicians to meet our growing health care needs. We believe that this is an effective strategy to strengthen Pennsylvania’s physician workforce and promote access to care for medically underserved populations.”

The specialties that signed onto the letter, along with PAMED, include:
The Pennsylvania Society of Gastroenterology
The Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians
The Keystone Chapter of the American College of Surgeons
The Pennsylvania Allergy & Asthma Association
The Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society
The Pennsylvania Society of Oncology & Hematology
The Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology
The Pennsylvania Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery
The Pennsylvania Section, American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists
The Pennsylvania Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics
The Pennsylvania Chapter, American College of Cardiology
The Pennsylvania Neurosurgical Society
The Pennsylvania Chapter, American College of Emergency Medicine Physicians
The Pennsylvania Chapter, American College of Physicians
The Pennsylvania Neurological Association
The Pennsylvania Society of Nephrology
The Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery