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HHS Secretary Sebelius names Alaskan to national committee studying rural and underserved health care shortage


(Anchorage, AK) — Alice J. Rarig, planning team supervisor for the state’s Health Planning and Systems Development Section, has been named to a federal committee reviewing and updating criteria used to define “medically underserved” and “health professional shortage” areas.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Rarig’s appointment Friday. The 24-member committee has members from 20 states and is tasked with representing the entire country.

Rarig is a senior Planner (IV) with the Department of Health and Social Services. She has worked in the divisions of Public Health and Health Care Services since 1997, when she was hired to assist the Alaska Primary Care Office with shortage designation applications and telemedicine development in Alaska.

Rarig holds a doctorate in health policy and management from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst; a master of public health from Yale; a master of arts from Yale in Soviet and East European studies; and a bachelor’s degree in Russian history and literature from Harvard.

“Dr. Rarig’s educational background, professional experience, and knowledge of rural, frontier and underserved communities will be great assets for the national committee,” Alaska Office of Rural Health director Patricia Carr said.

The full announcement follows:

Secretary Announces Appointment of Committee to Review Criteria for the Designation of Medically Underserved Areas and Health Professional Shortage Areas HHS Secretary Sebelius today announced the appointment of a committee to review and update the criteria used to define medically underserved areas and health professional shortage areas. The formation of this committee was provided for in the Affordable Care Act.

The committee comprises 24 members who are key stakeholders representing programs that are most affected by these designations. Those programs include:

  • Community Health Centers,
  • Rural health clinics and health care practitioners,
  • Special populations with unique health care needs,
  • Technical experts in the area of research in health care access and statistical methods.
"I am pleased to announce this committee of distinguished experts," said Secretary Sebelius. "The purpose of this committee is to examine current methods for identifying areas of need and underservice and propose revisions if they deem that appropriate."

"Every effort was made to maintain a geographic and demographic representation for this committee," said HRSA Administrator Dr. Mary Wakefield. "The committee will begin meeting later this year and be open to the public in the interest of transparency."

An area must have a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) designation to be eligible to apply for the placement of National Health Service Corps providers, and the Medically Underserved Population designation is used as a basis for awarding grants to Community Health Centers which are located in underserved communities. There is also a bonus payment to physicians under Medicare for services provided in HPSAs. A variety of other federal and state programs also use these designations to target resources to areas of need.

Meeting schedules for the committee will be published in the Federal Register with a target date for a draft final proposal in July 2011.

For more information and a list of committee members appointed, please visit bhpr.hrsa.gov/shortage/criteriareview/committee.htm.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), part of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary Federal agency for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable. For more information about HRSA and its programs, visit www.hrsa.gov.


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