Expert: Loan Repayment Programs Not Enough To Curb Doctor Shortage
Experts say that California's loan repayment programs for physicians might not be enough to curb the state's doctor shortage, Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" reports.
California has a shortage of primary care physicians in many inner city and rural areas.
The shortage is expected to increase when millions more state residents are able to obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act in 2014.
Details of Loan Repayment Programs
The state is trying to offset the shortage by offering programs that pay a portion of physicians' medical school loans if they agree to practice in medically underserved areas.
Each year, about 50 family physicians receive loan repayment services through such programs.
Lupe Alonzo-Diaz of the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development said that although physicians can receive loan repayment services for a maximum of six years, "[w]e find that even 15 years after [physicians have] received a loan repayment, more than 50% have stayed in those areas."
She said that loan repayment programs have made it possible to recruit top medical students for positions in medically underserved areas and to attract students from diverse backgrounds.
Programs Not Enough To Curb Shortage,Â Expert Says
Callie Langton of the California Academy of Family Physicians said that although the loan repayment programs help persuade some physicians who otherwise might not choose to practice in medically underserved areas, she would like to see more doctors benefit from the initiatives.
In addition, she said that the programs will not solve California's doctor shortage on their own.
Langton said that many factors contribute to the state's physician shortage, including that:
- Specialists make more money;
- Medical schools do not do enough to encourage general practice; and
- There is a cap on medical residencies that has created a bottleneck of students seeking to become licensed physicians.