September 30, 2013
Area(s) of Interest: Physician Workforce Professional Development & Education
Governor Jerry Brown has signed a California Medical Association (CMA)-sponsored bill that will refine the eligibility criteria for a successful physician retention program, the Steven M. Thompson Physician Corps Loan Repayment Program. The program provides grants of up to $105,000 to physicians who agree to practice in medically-underserved areas of the state for at least three years.
The program was created in 2002 under a bill sponsored by CMA. Since its inception, the program has awarded more than $17 million to over 220 individuals. Unfortunately, high demand for this program means less than one third of applicants have been awarded funding.
This bill (AB 565) will modify eligibility to require applicants have three years of experience providing health care services to medically underserved populations as designed by the federal government. This change will ensure that individuals providing health care services, such as working in a clinic or other patient care settings, are prioritized over other types of services.
AB 565 will also give preference to applicants who commit to serving an underserved population that is located in a federally designed shortage area, ensuring the most dire shortages are given priority. Additionally, as an acknowledgement of the severe shortage areas in the Central Valley, Inland Empire and other rural areas of California, AB 565 also gives preference to applicants who agree to practice as safety net providers in rural communities.
“The CMA is proud to be a sponsor of this bill,” said Paul R. Phinney, M.D., CMA president. “Expanding access to care in rural and underserved populations of California will help ensure patients get quality, timely care that they need. With millions of new patients entering the health care system in the coming year, we must do all we can to incentivize providers to practice where they are most needed."