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.
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.