Affordable Care Act expands loan repayment options for nurses

The Affordable Care Act doesn’t just expand health insurance coverage. It also includes provisions designed to get primary care providers where they’re needed most.
$290 million dollars have been earmarked for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), a federal program that repays caregivers’ student loans in exchange for service in rural or urban communities that have a shortage of primary care providers. The increased funding has allowed the NHSC to increase the amount of loan forgiveness available — participants can now receive up to $170,000 in loan repayment in exchange for a full-time, five-year service commitment. Shorter-term commitments (a two-year, full-time contract) and part-time options (two- or four-year half-time contracts) are now available as well. Qualified participants can also earn credit for teaching.

It is hoped that the expansion of the program will address, in part, the predicted mismatch between supply and demand when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented.  “By the end of FY2011, we expect that over 10,800 clinicians will be caring for more than 11 million people, more than tripling the National Health Service Corps since 2008,” said NHSC Director Rebecca Spitzgo. “By 2015…the Corps will support more than 16,000 new primary care professionals.” Currently, more than 1300 nurse practitioners and nurse midwives serve in the NHSC.

Nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and psychiatric nurse specialists are eligible for the program. To learn more, visit www.nhsc.hrsa.gov.

What do you think of the National Health Service Corps? Are loan repayment programs an effective way to get advanced practiced nurses to under-served areas?

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