ICYMI: Blackburn Pushes Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Medical Providers in Rural Communities

March 23, 2023

U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the bipartisan Rural America Health Corps Act. This legislation will incentivize more health professionals to serve and plant roots in rural communities. 

U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) are sponsoring this legislation and Representative David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) has introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“This bipartisan bill will help incentivize more health professionals to work in rural health facilities by establishing a structured program to forgive medical school loans,” said Senator Blackburn. “It is critical that we explore all possible options to increase access to care for rural Tennesseans and I am pleased to see so many of my colleagues supporting legislation to do just that."

“Patients across rural Illinois face challenges accessing the health care they need because of serious workforce shortages – with too few medical providers and long distances between them,” said Senator Durbin. “Our bipartisan bill provides new funding and support for rural communities by expanding loan forgiveness programs so we can attract and retain more doctors, nurses, physician assistants, dentists, and behavioral health specialists.”

“The need for additional health care professionals across the care spectrum is something I hear frequently from my West Virginia patients and providers,” said Senator Capito. “I’m proud to join Senator Blackburn in introducing the Rural America Health Corps Act, which aims to address this issue in a way that meets the specific needs of our rural communities.”

“All of Nevada’s 17 counties are affected by the health care provider shortage facing our state, especially our rural counties,” said Senator Rosen. “This bipartisan legislation seeks to increase access to health care services in rural Nevada by incentivizing nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other medical providers to work in underserved communities in Nevada.”

“Health care facilities across the nation are struggling to recruit and retain enough workers to provide the care their patients need and deserve. In Alaska, these challenges are only exacerbated by our expansive geography and lack of communities connected by a road system. By establishing this demonstration program, we’ll create new incentives for health care professionals to serve in rural and remote areas facing workforce shortages,” said Senator Murkowski. “I’m proud to join this bipartisan legislation to help bolster our nation’s health corps in an effort to improve care for some of Alaska’s most vulnerable populations while also strengthening our healthcare workforce.”

“I’ve heard from rural providers in Minnesota about the challenges they face in recruiting and retaining health care professionals in rural areas,” said Senator Smith. “Many providers are retiring or leaving the field, and young people are often held back from entering because they can’t afford training. We need solutions to address these health care workforce shortages, and that’s exactly what this bipartisan bill aims to do."

“I am proud to join Senator Blackburn, and my colleagues in the House of Representatives, to introduce the Rural America Health Corps Act,” said Congressman Kustoff. “By incentivizing healthcare professionals to practice and plant roots in rural communities, this is an essential step forward in our effort to bring more doctors, dentists, and mental health providers into rural America. I am confident that this legislation will help West Tennesseans have the increased access to the quality healthcare they deserve.”

“Across the country, hospitals continue to report critical shortages of nurses, physicians and other vital health care professionals, especially in rural areas. We appreciate this timely legislation, which will encourage health care professionals to serve in rural areas by providing incentives for clinicians to practice in these underserved parts of the country, and will help increase the needed workforce for our nation’s hospitals and health systems,” said Lisa Kidder Hrobsky, Senior Vice President of Legislative and Political Affairs of the American Hospital Association.

Specifically, 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.

Click here for bill text.