Tuesday, February 24, 2015

In need of rural doctors, Minnesota lawmakers look to expand loan forgiveness program

Facing a projected shortage of at least 800 rural doctors in the next decade, Minnesota lawmakers are considering tripling incentives for the state's loan forgiveness program, while also expanding the program to include other medical professionals, Jeremy Olson reports for the Star Tribune. "The deal is that doctors, dentists, nurses and others agree to practice for three to four years in sections of Minnesota designated as health care shortage areas and in exchange receive $5,000 to $30,000 per year to cut down their student loan debt."

The current program has been a success; 75 percent of the 192 doctors and more than 50 percent of dentists and nurses who have received loan forgiveness since 1991 are still working in rural areas, Olson writes. Rep. Deb Kiel (R-Crookston) has proposed increasing state funding from $740,000 per year to $3 million, which would fund an additional 50 loan forgiveness awards per year.

While nationally Republicans have gained control of Congress, in Minnesota, rural Republican lawmakers have a majority in the House. They hope that will lead to allocation of more funds to rural areas, Bill Salisbury reports for Pioneer Press. "The majority of Minnesotans who live in the Twin Cities area pay nearly two-thirds of the state's taxes and receive just over half of the state's spending. Meanwhile, non-metro taxpayers chip in slightly more than one-third of the revenue and get nearly half of the state aid."

"Rural issues moved to the Legislature's front burner this session after 10 Republicans defeated House DFL incumbents in outstate districts in the November election, giving the GOP the majority," Salisbury writes. "They campaigned on a theme that 'Greater Minnesota was left behind' under one-party DFL rule the previous two years." (Read more)

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