Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
SALT LAKE CITY — Legislative committee members voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of a bill that would require medical sites to provide 20% of the funding for a program aimed at bringing health care professionals to underserved areas.
The state currently provides half of the program’s money while the federal government matches the sum dollar for dollar. If passed, HB87 would end up saving Utah money, said bill sponsor Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful.
The bill, considered by the House Health and Human Services Committee, pertains to the Utah Health Care Workforce Financial Assistance Program, which provides educational loan repayment for health care providers in underserved areas.
According to Ward, it is quite difficult to get medical providers to serve in certain areas of Utah. These places are primarily nestled in rural stretches of the state, but there are some urban sites as well, he said. To address this need, the program allows the state to designate medical sites in which medical providers can administer to these populations while receiving repayment on their educational loans.
“That money plus the feds’ money is just used for loan repayment,” Ward said. “It doesn’t add onto their salary, it can’t be used for anything else — it’s used for loan repayment.”
Program recipients are good providers, he said. They must stay and serve the population for a given time and can’t back out without forfeiting their loan repayment.
Over time, program data shows that there are a good number of providers who end up staying and serving those populations even after their loan has been repaid in full, according to Ward.
“This has been a wildly successful program. Literally tens of thousands of patients, hundreds of providers in dozens and dozens of Utah communities have gotten service because of this program,” said Marc Babitz, deputy director with the Utah Department of Health.
This has been a wildly successful program. Literally tens of thousands of patients, hundreds of providers in dozens and dozens of Utah communities have gotten service because of this program.
–Marc Babitz, Utah Department of Health
He said he feels requiring the sites to contribute to the program is an excellent idea — an idea he reported as having received almost unanimous support from the clinics about the possibility of their 20% contribution.
This would make the state dollars go a lot further, Babitz said. Rather than putting in 50% as it has in the past, the state would only need to contribute 30% while the clinics would provide the other 20% funding. A federal government grant provides the other 50%.
“That saves the state a bunch of money and actually will allow us to fund more sites,” Babitz said.
When asked where the sites’ 20% would come from, he explained that there are several types of facilities served by the program. Some are private practices in underserved areas, but these all have an operating budget. Others are federally supported community health centers and receive federal grants that they could use.
Almost all of the safety net clinics charge a small amount of money for their services, which could also go toward their 20%, Babitz pointed out.
Committee members sent the bill forward with a favorable recommendation following a brief discussion.