AAFP Statement: Student Loan Certainty Act Lowers the Barriers to Becoming a Primary Care Physician

Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013

Statement attributable to:
Jeffrey Cain, MD
American Academy of Family Physicians

“At a time when school loan debt can strongly influence a medical student’s specialty choice, the American Academy of Family Physicians welcomes passage of the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act (HR 1911). This legislation is an important step toward helping build the primary care physician workforce.

“Policies established today will determine whether Americans will have access to needed primary medical care tomorrow. Medical education debt hobbles many young doctors who would choose family medicine or another primary care specialty. The combination of six-figure education loans, high interest rates, and the pay discrepancy between primary care and subspecialty care can thwart a student’s ability to become a primary care physician.

“This legislation lessens the impact of debt by retroactively reducing and capping interest rates on undergraduate, graduate and PLUS loans taken out after July 1, 2013. Without the reduction and cap, the increased cost of a loan would likely become a further deterrent to students who would prefer primary care careers but choose more lucrative subspecialties.

“The Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act is an important step in the right direction. Now we need to magnify its impact on building the primary care physician workforce with additional actions to defer interest on medical student loans until young doctors complete their residency training; to make interest on those loans tax deductible; and to increase support for primary care education and residency training programs. Altogether, these policies would help pave the way for building a strong primary care physicians workforce.”

Editor's Note: To arrange an interview with Dr. Cain, contact Leslie Champlin, 800-274-2237, Ext. 5224, or lchampli@aafp.org.

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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 120,900 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits -- that’s 214 million visits annually -- 48 percent more than to the next  most visited medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.

To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit www.aafp.org/media. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.FamilyDoctor.org(www.familydoctor.org).