The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) supports communities, known as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs), with limited access to primary, dental or mental health care by providing financial support for loan repayment and scholarships for professionals working at NHSC-approved sites. Through its Loan Repayment Program (LRP), NHSC is offering to repay qualifying educational loans in exchange for service to underserved areas.
Initial Award Amounts
LRP offers two levels of funding, based on the need of the community a provider serves, as defined by the HPSA score. HPSA scores range from 1 to 26, based on factors such as population-to-provider ratio, percent below poverty, travel time or distance to closest source of care and other factors. Sites with an HPSA score of 14 or above can receive up to $60,000 depending on the clinician’s service commitment. Sites with HPSA scores below 14 can receive up to $40,000, again dependent on the clinician’s service commitment.
Applicants can elect a full-time or half-time clinical practice. A full-time commitment is defined as a minimum of 40 hours per week for at least 45 weeks per year. The 40-hour week may be done over four days, but no more than 12 hours of work may occur in a 24-hour period. Applicants do not get credit for more than 40 hours in a week or for on-call hours with no direct patient service.
The half-time clinical practice requires a minimum of 20 hours per week (not to exceed 39 hours per week) for at least 45 weeks per year. Similar to the full-time criteria, work can be done in two days with no more than 12 hours in a 24-hour period. Also, as with full-time practice, there is no credit for more than 20 hours or on-call time with no direct patient service.
Both the full-time and half-time clinical practices have other service commitment criteria depending on the type of clinician.
NHSC LRP applicants must have the appropriate professional license or certification for the state in which their NHSC-approved site is located. Primary care specialties for physicians include family medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, general internal medicine, geriatrics, general pediatrics and psychiatry. For physician assistants, eligible practice areas include adult, family, pediatric, psychiatry, mental health, geriatrics and women’s health. Primary care certified nurse practitioners’ NHSC-approved primary care specialties are adult, family, pediatric, psychiatric and mental health, gerontological and women’s health. Other eligible disciplines include certified nurse-midwives, psychiatric nurse specialists, dentistry, dental hygienists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, licensed professional counselors and marriage and family therapists.
NHSC clinicians must work at an NHSC-approved site in an HPSA. NHSC-approved sites are outpatient facilities providing primary medical, dental and/or mental and behavioral health services. Until recently, critical access hospitals (CAHs) could not be NHSC-approved sites. Under the previous NHSC site policy, CAHs had limited eligibility. During that time, only the outpatient clinic was eligible to be an approved site and, in general, clinicians did not receive credit towards fulfilling their service obligations for time spent in the inpatient hospital. Beginning in fiscal year 2012, NHSC will approve an entire CAH—including the emergency room, wing bed unit and skilled nursing facility—as a service site under a three-year pilot program in an effort to meet the needs of these underserved communities. In addition, the clinicians’ time in the inpatient hospital now counts towards their service obligations. The award amount, service commitment and eligible disciplines at approved CAHs may vary from other NHSC-approved sites.
The 2012 application cycle is now open, and those interested in participating in the loan repayment program need to apply by May 15, 2012, to be eligible for funding. Awards will be made to applicants on or before September 30, 2012. Applicants that will be working at a site with an HPSA score of less than 14 only will get funds after funds are given to those working at sites with an HPSA score of 14 or more.
Facilities interested in becoming NHSC-approved sites should contact their State Primary Care Office, prior to submitting an application, to get an HPSA designation. There is no deadline for CAHs applying to become an NHSC-approved service site; however, the approval process takes six to eight weeks. For more information, visit the NHSC website or call 877.313.1823 to speak to a state representative.
If you need further guidance or assistance, please contact your BKD advisor or Craig Steen.