On February 18, 2020, Congressmen David McKinley (R-WV-1) and Peter Welch (D-VT-AL) introduced a bill that would help to address the workforce shortage of specialty physicians in rural America (H.R. 5924). This bipartisan bill would create a student loan repayment program for specialty physicians that practice in rural communities for a minimum of six years. While student loan forgiveness programs exist through agencies like the National Health Service Corps, none of them are open to specialty care physicians such as urologists.
The AUA worked closely with Rep. McKinley and his staff to develop this legislation, and stands in support of H.R. 5924. This bill is the first of its kind, and was drafted to directly benefit specialty care physicians facing shortages – such as urologists – and to not compete with existing federal funds that benefit primary healthcare providers.
According to the AUA Census, only 38 percent of all U.S. counties have a practicing urologist. And, while the incidence of common cancers (such as lung, colon, and prostate) are less likely in rural and non-urban settings, mortality rates are found to be higher1. Joint research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) show that lack of access to preventive screenings and specialized care contribute to these increased mortality rates2,3.
“This legislation has the potential to improve access to much-needed specialty care for many Americans around the country,” said AUA Public Policy Chair Chris Gonzalez, MD. “The AUA applauds Congressmen McKinley and Welch for championing this important measure, and we look forward to working with them to help it advance through the legislative process.”
1Callaghan TH, Ferdinand AO, et al. (2018, November). Cancer Mortality in Rural America 1999-2016. Retrieved October 03, 2019, from Southwest Rural Health Research Center: https://srhrc.tamhsc.edu/docs/srhrc-pb4-callaghan-cancer.pdf
2 Health Resources and Services Adminstration. (2019, February 21). Rural Health Disparities to the Fore. Retrieved October 03, 2019, from Health Resources and Services Administration: https://www.hrsa.gov/enews/past-issues/2019/february-21/rural-health-disparities
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, January 12). Rural Americans at higher risk of death from five leading causes. Retrieved October 03, 2019, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0112-rural-death-risk.html