TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg which would make changes to the “Primary Care Practitioner Loan Redemption Program” to expand the scope of the program to other primary care practitioners was unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee today.
“Quality primary care is the foundation of a strong health care system, and New Jersey must do everything it can to encourage the best and the brightest primary care providers to use their talents where they are needed most,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen, the Vice Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “In the Garden State, we have a loan redemption program as an incentive to primary care doctors and dentists to practice in underserved areas, but we need to be more aggressive in our efforts. New Jersey cannot turn its back on citizens who need access to quality primary health care, and we must do more to bring doctors and other health care professionals to areas where they can do the most good.”
The bill, S-1220, would expand and rename the “Primary Care Physician and Dentist Loan Redemption Program,” which provides for partial loan reimbursement for physicians and dentists practicing in areas designated by the State as medically-underserved, to reflect the inclusion of other primary care providers, including nurse practitioners. The bill would also expand the criteria used to determine and rank designated underserved areas to account for not only the financial resources of the population of an area, but also the percentage of the population that’s eligible for government medical assistance, and the percentage of the population that is uninsured. Finally, the bill would increase the maximum loan amount authorized for redemption under the program, from $120,000 to $120,000 or the maximum amount authorized by the federal government – whichever is higher.
“On a national and State level, we’ve heard a lot of talk about the implementation of universal health care, because there’s a universal recognition that health care is a fundamental right afforded to all American citizens,” said Senator Weinberg. “However, as we look at the various proposals to ensure health care coverage, we must be conscious of the fact that not everyone has access to the appropriate level of care in their own neighborhoods. As we expand coverage, we must also do our part to expand access to care, to make sure coverage is meaningful and the promise of universal health care is realized.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.