HHS Awards Funding to Expand Primary Care Workforce

More than $240 million has been awarded to support programs that increase access to primary healthcare in medically underserved communities, announced HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell.

More than $240 million has been awarded to support programs that increase access to primary healthcare in communities that need it most, announced HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. The money includes about $176 million in Affordable Care Act funding.

The money will support the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and the NURSE Corps scholarship and loan repayment programs, which fund primary care clinicians and students in exchange for service in underserved communities. The money also enables health professionals interested in primary care to pursue community-based careers by removing some financial barriers.

“The most critical step in connecting people to quality health care is a primary care provider,” Burwell said in a statement. “These awards provide financial support directly to health professionals, including physicians, registered nurses, and physician assistants, to help individuals -- particularly the 17.6 million uninsured who have recently gained coverage -- find the primary care services they need.”

More than 9600 primary care medical, dental, nursing, and behavioral and mental health practitioners from the NHSC are providing culturally competent care to millions of medically underserved, HHS said. This is double the number in 2008, and an additional 2000 NURSE Corps nurses are also working in these communities.

The majority of the money ($125.9 million) is going to the NHSC loan repayment program and provides nearly 3000 awards to fully trained primary care clinicians in exchange for them working in an area of greatest need. Funding also goes to a the Faculty Loan Repayment Program, which provides awards to educators in exchange for serving as a faculty member in an eligible health professions school, the Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship Program, which awards Native Hawaiian healthcare professionals trained to delivery primary health services to Native Hawaiians in the State of Hawaii, and more.

“These awards not only strengthen our primary health care workforce, but increase access to primary care in urban, rural and frontier locations nationwide,” Health Resources and Services Administration Acting Administrator Jim Macrae said. “Collectively, these programs are serving millions of Americans who rely on the National Health Service Corps and NURSE Corps clinicians for essential health care services.”