Program will address shortage of doctors in underserved areas
TRENTON – In an effort to address a current and worsening physician shortage in New Jersey, a bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which would establish a Physician Loan Redemption Program for both primary care and specialty physicians who pledge to work in underserved and physician shortage areas was approved by the Senate Education Committee by a vote of 5 to 0.
The bill (S-1774) is in direct response to the New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals report that within 10 years New Jersey will have a shortage of more than 2,800 physicians and specialists.
“It is necessary that all New Jersey citizens have access to qualified doctors no matter where they live in the state,” Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex) said. “A shortage of physicians should not stand in the way of New Jerseyans getting the medical attention they need.”
This bill would create the Physician Loan Redemption Program which would pay off the cost of student loans for doctors working in underserved areas. Under the bill, doctors would receive a graduated percentage of the cost of their loans for each of ten years of which they commit to working in an underserved area. If a doctor continues to work in the community for ten years, their student loans would be 100 percent forgiven.
The program would require participants to be a New Jersey resident; graduate from a medical school approved by the State Board of Medical Examiners; complete an accredited residency training program; and agree to participate in a full-time clinical practice in the State for the first four of the ten-year commitment at an approved site in an underserved area.
“New Jersey has great medical programs and produces world-class physicians, but many are leaving the state after graduation and their residencies,” Senator Vitale added. “Loan forgiveness is one of the top factors medical residents look for in determining a location to practice. This program would incentivize these physicians to stay here in New Jersey, serving our communities.”
The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee before going to the full Senate for review.