Blackburn, Durbin Introduce Legislation to Improve Rural Health Care

March 25, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) along with Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) introduced the bipartisan Rural America Health Corps Act. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Rural communities often find it challenging to recruit and retain health care practitioners,” said Senator Blackburn. “This legislation will create a Rural Health Corps to incentivize providers to practice and plant roots in rural communities.”

“Across Illinois, millions of people live in communities with shortages of doctors, mental health professionals, and dentists. If we can attract more doctors, nurses, and other health professionals to serve in rural parts of America, we can improve access to these critical health care needs. Our bill represents a bipartisan approach to addressing rural health in America,” Senator Durbin said.

“I’ve heard from rural providers in Minnesota about the challenges they face in recruiting and retaining health care professionals in rural areas.” said Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee. “We need solutions to address these health care workforce shortages, and that’s exactly what this bipartisan bill aims to do.”

“Our rural communities face unique health care challenges that require innovative solutions,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “The bipartisan, bicameral Rural America Health Corps Act will help recruit and retain health care professionals to address workforce shortages and meet the needs of small towns across Northwest and Central Illinois. I’m pleased to join my colleagues to introduce this legislation and work to make health care more accessible and affordable for hardworking Illinois families.”

“Many times, rural communities face healthcare delivery challenges and find themselves operating on a tight budget. The lack of available resources is not the only factor that drives medical personnel to larger cities, but school debt also plays a role. This has become a major problem, especially for folks in West Tennessee,” said Rep. Kustoff. “The Rural America Health Corps Act will incentivize doctors and medical personnel to practice in rural areas, allowing West Tennesseans to get the care they deserve. I would like to thank Senators Blackburn and Durbin as well as Representative Cheri Bustos for joining me in introducing this important bill that encourages innovative care delivery in our rural communities.”

The Rural America Health Corps Act:

  • Creates a new loan repayment program titled “NHSC Rural Provider Loan Repayment Program.”
  • Includes a range of providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
  • Ensures practitioners would be eligible for loan repayment on a sliding scale, based on the severity of the shortage in that area.
  • Waives any associated income tax liability for the loan repayment program.
  • Other than these provisions, the program would follow the same rules as the current NHSC program.

Click here to view the bill and here for the one pager.