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 today.
“Today, the State Senate took an important step to ensure that medically-underserved communities in New Jersey will have access to quality care,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen, the Vice Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “We need to make the most of existing State programs to provide incentives for health care professional to practice where they can do the most good. By expanding the primary care loan redemption program to include a wider variety of health care professionals, we are essentially saying that all New Jerseyans deserve high-quality care, no matter where they live.”
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.
“During the last presidential campaign, every candidate had a plan for providing universal health care to the American people, and as far as I know, President-Elect Obama will make access to care a priority in his administration,” said Senator Weinberg. “That said, universal health care is meaningless without access to quality doctors, dentists and other health care professionals. We need to do more to encourage good doctors to practice where they’re needed most, and make the promise of universal health care a reality for all New Jerseyans, wherever they may call home.”
The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.