WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., introduced the bipartisan Specialty Physicians Advancing Rural Care (SPARC) Act with Senator Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., to help address the shortage of physicians in rural communities by creating a student loan repayment program for specialist physicians practicing in those areas.
“Rural communities have a chronic shortage of specialty providers, and Congress should do what it can to address the problem,” said Wicker. “The SPARC Act would move the ball forward by offering much-needed student loan relief for physicians and other medical professionals who serve in rural areas.”
“Nevada is facing a dire doctor shortage with all 17 of our counties being designated as physician shortage areas – and this is impacting rural counties the most,” said Rosen. “I’m introducing this bipartisan legislation because we need to do more to incentivize specialty physicians and other specialized medical professionals to work in rural areas and underserved communities.”
The legislation would help to address a nationwide physician shortage in rural areas, which is projected to increase within the next 12 years as the U.S. population grows, average ages rise, and more physicians retire. Rural areas are historically medically underserved, and over half of the federally designated health professional shortage areas are located in these communities.
Among other provisions, the legislation would establish a student loan repayment program for specialty medicine physicians and non-physician specialty health care providers under the Health Resources and Services Administration. Participants in the program would be obligated to serve in a rural area facing a shortage of specialty physicians.
This legislation is endorsed by the American Gastroenterological Association, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the American Medical Students Association, the Student National Medical Association, the American Urological Association, and the American College of Rheumatology.