Rural and under-served areas of Minnesota present unique challenges for health care access. There is an ever-increasing shortage of medical personnel in rural areas; transportation and distance barriers contribute to an increasing economic destabilization of rural healthcare services. As a result, many doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel have favored urban and suburban practices over rural areas.
In addition to the need for medical professionals in rural Minnesota, 91% of the 2013 University of Minnesota Medical Doctor graduates have student loan debt of more than $158,000, many physicians need lucrative practices to repay high education debt.
To address this issue, legislation was heard this week to address this problem. The Loan Forgiveness for Medical Professionals Bill expands the state’s Health Professional Loan Forgiveness program for health care professionals willing to practice in high-need areas in exchange for having some of their student loan debt forgiven.
- The purpose of the Health Professional Loan Forgiveness program is to recruit and retain quality health care professionals to needed areas and facilities in Minnesota.
- Expansion of the Loan Forgiveness Program will make it less burdensome for physicians to practice in under-served areas, providing much-needed health care access to rural Minnesota.
- The bill will improve health care across the state by encouraging medical professionals to stay in rural Minnesota or in other high-need areas.
- Current participants report the loan forgiveness program has a major effect on their choice of practice location, and the vast majority of health care professionals remain in the same or similar locations as where they start their careers.