Boozman introduces bills to combat doctor shortages in Arkansas
JONESBORO, Ark. (Edited News Release/KAIT) - U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is addressing the growing healthcare provider shortage with the introduction of a pair of legislative initiatives aimed at attracting medical professionals to practice in communities across Arkansas.
The senator is advancing bills to increase access to medical residency slots in underserved areas and incentivize students to join the medical field.
More than 500,000 Arkansans live in an area defined by the federal government as lacking the adequate number of health professionals to serve the population. Nationwide, the U.S. faces a projected shortage between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
“We have an urgent need to ensure well-qualified medical providers are available to care for and treat Arkansans no matter where they live,” Boozman said. “The Natural State ranks among the lowest in the number of available physicians per capita. Reducing the physician shortfall and supporting the health care needs of our communities continue to be priorities for which I’m working to deliver bipartisan solutions.”
Boozman and Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) have introduced the Physicians for Underserved Areas Act, legislation that would update the Graduate Medical Education (GME) distribution process to allow medical residency programs in areas with physician shortages a greater chance of gaining available residency slots following a hospital closure elsewhere in the country.
They also introduced the Resident Education Deferred Interest (REDI) Act that would allow medical and dental students to pause student loan interest accrual and principal loan repayment while serving in their residencies or internships.
“Senator Boozman understands the important role residency programs play as a pipeline for physicians for underserved states like Arkansas,” said Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, chancellor of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. “Data shows us that physicians are more likely to practice in areas where they complete their residencies. However, it also shows us that the majority of medical students graduate with about $200,000 in student loan debt. The Physicians for Underserved Areas Act and the REDI Act will help retain physicians in areas where they are needed most. We are very grateful to Senator Boozman for his leadership in these efforts.”
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