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Legislature OKs Incentives to Increase AK Medical Providers

HB 78 creates Loan Repayment & Incentive Program

Saturday, April 14, 2012, Juneau, Alaska – The 27th Alaska Legislature today passed a bill increasing Alaskan’s access to basic health care with a unanimous vote from the Senate.

House Bill 78, by Representative Bob Herron, creates the Alaska Health Care Professionals Loan Repayment & Incentive Program to attract new graduates or mid-career professionals to the state, reducing the worker shortage by filing vacant health care provider positions throughout the state. The program has two possible tracks for participants: loan repayment or a direct cash incentive, which is only used by a few other states, and will give Alaska an edge when it comes to recruitment, Herron said.

Alaska is one of four states that does not have its own state-supported program. Herron said that many graduates interviewing for jobs in our health centers ask if a loan repayment program exists, and often times turn elsewhere when they learn that we don’t offer one.

“A growing number of our constituents are unable to access healthcare,” Herron, D-Lower Kuskokwim, said. “It is critical that we promptly address Alaska’s healthcare workforce shortage in order to ensure that all Alaskans have meaningful access to the basic health care they need for their families.”

The proposed program would support up to 90 participants a year and spread across 10 different essential shortage areas including dentists, pharmacists, physicians, dental hygienists, registered nurses, advanced nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physical therapists, clinical psychologists, and Master’s level or higher clinical social workers.

“HB 78 is not the answer to all of our state’s health care needs, but it is a critical, measureable step – one that we can take right now,” Herron said.                           

HB 78 will now be transmitted to the governor for signature.

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