“This new National Health Service Corps initiative is an innovative approach to encouraging more medical students to work in primary care, and to bring more primary-care doctors to communities,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a news release.
Last year, about $9.1 million in loan repayments was included in the program.
The National Health Services Corps program is not new. It was established in 1972, but the current Students to Service Loan Repayment Program initiative provides more money than is typically offered in return for longer service commitments.
The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 included $300 million for the NHSC, including $240 million for primary-care clinician recruitment. Of this amount, $196 million went into loan repayments, $24 million for scholarships, and $20 million went toward state loan repayment programs. In addition, about $60 million was to be used for NHSC “field operations” and about $1.5 million for administration and implementation, according to the HHS (PDF).
An HHS recovery program fact sheet stated that nearly 250 scholarships and more than 4,000 loan repayments were awarded.
About 82% of clinicians who completed their service requirement continue to practice in the same community for at least a year, and 55% continue to practice in the same area for at least 10 years, according to a 2012 retention survey (PDF).
Of the 10,000 healthcare professionals in the NHSC program in September 2011, 29% were mental health providers, 25% were physicians, 16% were nurse practitioners, 14% were physician assistants, 12% were dentists and 2% were dental hygienists.