Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and 13th District Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski introduced legislation on Thursday to Congress that would incentivize more health professionals to serve in rural communities.
Budzinski says that healthcare is facing serious workforce shortages, especially in rural areas. The Rural America Health Corps Act creates a new program under the Health Resources and Services Administration’s National Health Service Corps (NHSC) to test whether an increased loan repayment amount and longer service commitment would better enhance recruitment and retention of doctors, nurses, dentists, and behavioral health providers in rural areas. Compared to the national average of 35%, only 23% of NHSC clinicians in Illinois serve in rural areas.
Budzinski says the bill would prevent things like the reduction in services at rural hospitals: “The rural health bill is going to help actually address exactly some of the concerns were for our Veterans population, which is making sure we are prioritizing workforce and that we are training and hiring healthcare professionals in rural settings, making sure we are supporting our rural hospitals. This is not an uncommon challenge for rural communities. I am hoping that this bill that we just introduced, and Senator Durbin is a partner in this work, [that] we can help really support and stabilize our rural healthcare providers.”
Budzinski and Durbin’s bill would allegedly address these workforce shortages and health disparities by enticing promising students from diverse backgrounds into health careers in under-served communities by providing scholarship and loan repayment funding in exchange for a service commitment in an under-served urban or rural area.