December 2008 MedBytes: Primary Care in Underserved Areas

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Tex Med . 2008;104(12):64.  

Texas and the nation face a shortage of primary care physicians. Government agencies have programs in place to attract obstetrician-gynecologists, pediatricians, internal medicine physicians, and family physicians to underserved parts of the state.

National Health Service Corps
Part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) has a variety of programs for medical students who want to dedicate themselves to providing primary care in communities most in need. The NHSC Web site, , is a good starting point. Select  Join Us  from the menu to learn about NHSC scholarships for health professions students. Scholarships are available for those who agree to practice in underserved U.S. communities. In addition, NHSC has a program that allows students and residents to serve on interdisciplinary teams in underserved areas and an on-campus ambassador program in which faculty members nationwide work as mentors for health professions students pursuing primary care careers. To learn about NHSC's loan repayment program, select  Applications  from the menu. The program is open to those who commit to providing primary care service in a priority health professional shortage area for a minimum of two years and who meet other criteria.

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
Created by the Texas Legislature in 1965, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) offers a number of loans and financial aid options to assist Texas students in achieving their higher education goals. On the THECB loans Web site, , select  Loan Repayment Programs  from the menu to access information about the  Physician Education Loan Repayment Program. Eligible family practice, general pediatrics, osteopathic family practice, psychiatry, obstetrics-gynecology, emergency medicine, general internal medicine, and general surgery physicians can qualify. They must agree to practice in medically underserved areas or for certain state agencies. THECB also features loan repayment programs for nurses, dentists, and faculty members with a doctoral degree who agree to teach at Texas institutions of higher education in counties that border Mexico.

Health Resources and Services Administration
A division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) provides primary health care to underserved populations through community health centers and federally qualified health centers. On the Web site, , learn more about what these entities are, their benefits, how to apply for funding, the different types of centers, the patient populations served, how to operate a health center, and federal requirements. Benefits of operating a health center include grant funds to offset the costs of uncompensated care; access to medical liability coverage under the Federal Tort Claims Act; prospective payment system reimbursement for services to Medicaid patients; cost-based reimbursement for services to Medicare patients; drug pricing discounts for some pharmaceutical products; federal loan guarantees for capital improvements; access to on-site eligibility workers to provide Medicaid and State Child Health Insurance Program enrollment services; reimbursement by Medicare for "first dollar" of services; access to the Vaccines for Children program for uninsured children; and access to National Health Service Corps medical, dental, and mental health professionals.

MedBytes is a quick look at new, or newly discovered, Web sites of interest to Texas physicians. The column also highlights features of the TMA Web site. If you know of some interesting medical sites or have questions about how to use the TMA Web site, e-mail Publication of information about Web sites in this column is not to be considered an endorsement or approval by the Texas Medical Association of the sites or sponsors, or of any products or services involved.  



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