State receives federal money to attract health professionals to underserved areas

Vermont’s health care system received a boost from Washington to help it hire health care professionals to work in underserved parts of the state.

The federal Health Resources and Services Administration on Wednesday gave $250,000 to the state’s loan repayment program, which will be used to erase student debt for providers who take jobs with Vermont’s federally qualified health centers or rural health clinics.

The money is the first allotment in a four-year funding commitment. The federal money is being matched by the state, said John Olson, director of the state’s rural health program. The state match will come from health centers, foundations and other community resources. Any remaining match will come out of the state Education Fund.

The combined $500,000 will be awarded to 25 practitioners in amounts of up to $20,000. Physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and dentists can receive up to $20,000 per year for up to six years by agreeing to work in underserved areas.

The University of Vermont College of Medicine and the Vermont Area Health Education Centers, a nonprofit that works on access to care issues, will manage the applications and awards.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on the floor of the Senate where he filibustered on Dec. 10, 2010 for 8.5 hours.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Olson thanked Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who was able to include a provision in the Affordable Care Act that made it “worthwhile” for Vermont to participate in the federal program for the first time by easing restrictions on the use of the money, he said.

The ACA provision authorized $1.5 billion for the National Health Service Corps, which provides scholarships and loan repayment assistance for health care providers to work in underserved communities, according to a news release from Sanders’ office.

“I am pleased that these dollars will help attract and retain dedicated health care providers to areas of high need across Vermont,” Sanders said in a statement.

“Like other states, we have high- and low-need areas, we’re not Alaska or Mississippi, but we do have our own challenges in parts of the state,” Olson said.

Nine of Vermont’s 14 counties have an inadequate or severely inadequate supply of physicians, according to Sanders’ office.

Providers going to work for any of the federally qualified health centers, or rural clinics are eligible for the program. Primary care providers and dentists working in Those working in town that are considered underserved towns can qualify as well.

There are towns in every county in the state that are considered underserved. For more detail on eligibility and the application process click here.


Morgan True


  1. rosemarie jackowski :

    On the surface this sounds good, BUT what about areas where there are no FQHC? Some areas of the State are still dead zones.

  2. John Gannon :

    With the median student loan debt of medical school graduates at $175,000 and only increasing, the HRSA’s $250,000 is a meaningless gesture. With student loan debt now the leading form of consumer debt in the U.S., we need to get serious about reducing the costs of attending college and graduate schools. This loan repayment program is just another higher education subsidy that is only likely to lead to higher education costs.

  3. Jon Corrigan :

    I recall reading, within the last year, how people in the medical field would absolutely flock to Vermont because of our charge toward ‘single-payer’. Apparently, that’s not happening.

  4. Peter Gregg :

    I would be interested in a follow up to this program to see if it has truly attracted anyone and if it does what it suggests.

    Although I understand the connection to education I do not believe that the education fund should be a bottomless pit for anything that has the word education in it. Perhaps the general fund would be more appropriate since the ultimate intent is growing our communities and retaining talent. Those that would be our health care professionals would be such whether they remained in Vermont or not, Vermont is merely providing an incentive to stay.

  5. Stan Shapiro :

    Physician recruitment and retention are a large , looming issue in Vermont. Current Mullin triggers for Act 48 mandate that a competetive market place exist if reform efforts are to succeed.

  6. Karen McCauliffe :

    Is the federal taxpayers’ funding still to be cut to the Federally Qualified Health Clinics (FQHCs) in 2015 as called for in the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? If so it would seem like it will be problematic for all the FQHCs in Vermont. Vermont has the highest participation per capita of all the states. (see VPR link below)

    “The federal Health Resources and Services Administration on Wednesday gave $250,000 to the state’s loan repayment program, which will be used to erase student debt for providers who take jobs with Vermont’s federally qualified health centers or rural health clinics.” Will the loan forgiveness program really work if federal funding is drastically cut to these FQHCs in 2015?

    “The National Association of Community Health Centers last week petitioned Congress to extend federal funding by another five years for federally qualified health centers. The centers — which provide care for an estimated 22 million people, most of whom are low-income individuals — are scheduled to lose about 70% of their federal funding in October 2015, when lawmakers originally thought that the most uninsured individuals would have gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act.”

    “Vermont is believed to have the highest per-capita participation among the 50 states, slightly ahead of West Virginia.”



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