While President Barack Obama’s health care plan has been steeped in controversy on a national scale, the Affordable Care Act now is funding a new program to lighten the load of medical school costs on students, including those at MSU.
The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration announced a plan this week that would help repay loan costs for medical students if they help increase public health in shortage areas across the country.
Under the new plan, which is funded by the Affordable Care Act, students could have up to $120,000 of their medical school loans paid for if they serve three years as a primary physician in areas with fewer doctors.
Student participants, who are awarded the opportunity during their last year of medical school, are sent to an area that lacks enough basic doctors for medical coverage. These areas can be both urban and rural, even areas such as Indian tribal health clinics, said Martin Kramer, a spokesman for the Health Resources and Services Administration.
So far 77 students in all 50 states are participating in the pilot year of the program, including one from MSU.
“Most Americans who live in underserved areas don’t have access to basic care,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said while announcing the plan Tuesday in Los Angeles, according to a Los Angeles Times article . “It is not just a problem in some rural, isolated communities. It’s a big problem in cities.”
This program is somewhat different than other initiatives seeking to up the amount of primary doctors, said Val Meyers, Associate Director of the MSU Office of Financial Aid. Most other programs provide loans with low interest rates, while the new HRSA plan funnels money directly to students.
While the administration already provided funding for medical residents, the new program reaches young doctors while they still are in school.
Lauren Hasler, a second-year student in MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, said the program is something she would consider, but it would depend on how it would affect her pursuit of a residency program.
While Hasler said she agrees with the goal of such a program, it would affect the possibility of her being paired up with a program right for her.
“There’s a whole system, a match day, where you’re also matched with a residency program,” Hasler said. “It kind of depends on the logistics of that.”