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Bipartisan Bill Aims To Address Doctor Shortage

In action on Friday, Feb. 12, local Congressman Josh Harder (CA-10) reintroduced the bipartisan, bicameral Stopping Doctor Shortages Act to close a loophole in federal regulations that prevents doctors in California and Texas from qualifying for student loan repayment programs. Rep. Harder introduced the bill alongside Reps. Van Taylor, Obernolte and Castro in the House and Sens. Feinstein and Cornyn in the Senate. The California Medical Association (CMA) estimates the bill could bring 10,000 physicians to the state over the next decade.

“We need more doctors in the Central Valley, it’s as simple as that,” said Congressman Harder. “This bill brings more doctors to our communities by fixing the rules around federal loan repayment. If we pass this bill, we’ll see as many as 10,000 new physicians in our state in the next decade alone. That means more accessible and more affordable care for everyone who needs it.”

Congressman Van Taylor (TX-03) stated, “Right here in Collin County, thousands of North Texans rely on non-profit and public hospitals for their healthcare. However, current statewide physician shortages threaten patients’ access to care. By correcting benefit disparities for physicians in our communities, who have spent the last year on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, our bill ensures Texas physicians serving the public have access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program – which physicians in the rest of the country have access to. Not only does this technical fix support doctors already hard at work in our community, but it also will attract more healthcare professionals to Texas, ensuring Collin County families have access to affordable healthcare.”

A federal loan repayment program, created in 2007, was designed to give doctors working for nonprofits the opportunity to get their federal student loans forgiven after making on-time payments for 10 years. A law in California referred to as the “Corporate Bar” prevents doctors from being directly employed by non-profit organizations, meaning they don’t qualify for the federal loan forgiveness program. When the federal government rolled out the program, they did not account for the unique law in California, meaning doctors have been forced to leave the state or disincentivized from working in nonprofits in search of forgiveness for immense student loan debt. Texas is the only other state with a similar law restricting student loan forgiveness for doctors.

The bipartisan bill would close the loophole by requiring the Department of Education to allow doctors who conduct full-time work for nonprofits to qualify for the program even if they’re not directly employed by the nonprofit organization.

The bill is endorsed by the California Medical Association and Texas Medical Association.

“Now more than ever, we’re seeing how much we depend on doctors for our public health,” said Senator Feinstein. “Throughout this pandemic, doctors have been on the frontlines, putting themselves at great risk to save lives. Unfortunately, some physicians in California and Texas aren’t eligible for student loan forgiveness because of a technicality in state law. It’s long past time we fix that. I’m proud to introduce this bill that will allow California and Texas doctors to qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.”