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Murkowski Pushes Administration for Follow Through, More Rural Doctors

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski today urged Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to enforce existing law on rural medical training – and create an environment that will boost rural medicine nationwide.  The Senator wrote a letter with Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) – co-signed by a bipartisan group of 18 other Senate colleagues – that was sent to the HHS Secretary.

Congress passed a bill in 1999 that included a provision called the Rural Training Tract (RTT) to boost rural medical care nationwide by requiring a certain amount of training physicians to be assigned work outside of urban areas – but that policy has not been utilized.  Senator Murkowski’s recommendation to the Secretary is to enforce and practice this policy to alleviate a glaring statistic: 20 percent of the U.S. population resides in rural areas, but less than 9 percent of physicians practice there.

In her letter (attached), Senator Murkowski writes with her colleagues:

“Many of our constituents must travel great distances to access health care.  Research has shown that physicians who train in rural areas often end up practicing in rural areas. With provider shortages particularly acute in rural America, it is imperative that steps be taken…”

Senator Murkowski’s efforts are supported by the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Osteopathic Association, Council of Academic Family Medicine and the National Rural Health Association – and locally in Anchorage, by Dr. Harold Johnston, Director of the Alaska Family Medicine Residency at Providence Hospital.

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