• Historic Level of Loan Repayment Funds Available

    Stimulus Legislation Bolsters National Health Service Corps

    April 13, 2021, 11:22 a.m. David Mitchell — For nearly half a century, the National Health Service Corps has helped both communities and health care professionals by placing primary care physicians and others in areas of need. In exchange for working in health care shortage areas — both urban and rural — health professionals benefit from NHSC scholarships or loan repayment programs. 

    nhsc concept

    This year, the American Rescue Plan Act provided NHSC with an $800 million increase in funding, and the program is expected to make more awards in a single year than ever before.

    “We’ve advocated for reauthorization and appropriate funding of the National Health Service Corps for many years,” said AAFP President Ada Stewart, M.D., a former NHSC scholar. “We have to look at the importance of addressing our future workforce issues in addition to addressing health care disparities. The National Health Service Corps is a means to do both.”

    An application cycle is open for three NHSC programs until May 6:

    • The NHSC Loan Repayment Program awards up to $50,000 in exchange for a two-year commitment to provide primary medical, dental or behavioral health care at approved sites in underserved areas. Recipients may extend their service commitment and potentially pay off their educational debt in full. This program will dedicate $15 million for clinicians working at Indian Health Service facilities, Tribally Operated 638 Health Programs and Urban Indian Health Programs.
    • The NHSC Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program provides up to $75,000 in exchange for a three-year commitment to recipients who provide substance use disorder treatment services at approved facilities. Clinicians with Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 waivers can receive award preference.
    • The NHSC Rural Community Loan Repayment Program awards up to $100,000 for three years of service. Being employed at an NHSC-approved Rural Communities Opioid Response Program Consortium facility gives a clinician eligibility for award preference.

    The NHSC said in a news release that clinicians are encouraged to apply even if their organization’s health professional shortage area score has not been competitive for awards in previous years. Eligible sites can include

    • outpatient treatment programs certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration,
    • office-based opioid treatment facilities,
    • non-opioid substance use disorder treatment facilities,
    • federally qualified health centers,
    • FQHC look-alikes,
    • rural health clinics,
    • American Indian health facilities,
    • state or federal correctional facilities,
    • critical access hospitals,
    • community health centers,
    • state or local health departments,
    • community outpatient facilities,
    • private practices,
    • school-based clinics, and
    • mobile units and free clinics.

    The NHSC will offer Q&A sessions related to the loan repayment programs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET on April 20 and May 4. There also is an archived version of an April 1 webinar that focused on the application process.  

    According the Association of American Medical Colleges, nearly three-fourths of medical students graduate with debt, and the median debt was $200,000 in 2019.

    “The National Health Service Corps assisted me with indebtedness and allowed me to care for a population that had been marginalized in an area that was underserved,” Stewart said. “I’m still practicing where I served my NHSC commitment.”