Federal officials have announced more funding, easier applications and more-flexible loan terms as incentives to help expand the National Health Service Corps.
The corps, which offers financial aid to primary-care clinicians who agree to work for two years in medically underserved areas, is now offering up to $60,000 to aid in repaying student loans. The enhanced awards were included as part of a $290 million funding outlay in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, according to an HHS news release.
The reform law also changed the program rules to allow funding recipients to work half-time to fulfill their awards of up to $30,000 for loan repayment and to receive credit for some teaching hours, according to the release. Also for the first time, applicants to the program can apply online.
Program officials expect that by the end of 2011, nearly 11,000 medical, dental and mental-health clinicians will be part of the National Health Service Corps—a tripling of the 2008 ranks. By 2015, organizers plan to be supporting 15,000 new primary-care professionals, according to the release.