February 2, 2015 — At the urging of the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) on Jan. 27 introduced H.R. 542, “The National Health Service Corps Improvement Act of 2015,” in the U.S. House of Representatives. If passed, the legislation would specify that doctors of chiropractic (DCs) are one of the designated provider “types” allowed to compete for student loan repayment and scholarship monies through federal programs managed by the National Health Service Corps (NHSC).
“We welcome Rep. Gregg Harper’s enthusiastic support for this important legislation,” ACA President Anthony Hamm, DC, FACO, said. “Enacting it into law would eliminate one more disparity in federal programs relative to the chiropractic profession and our students.”
A number of health professions are currently eligible to participate in NHSC programs, including medical and osteopathic physicians, nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, physician assistants, dentists, registered dental hygienists, health service psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, licensed professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychiatric nurse specialists. Under current law, however, DCs are not specifically designated eligible.
NHSC programs that would be impacted by Harper’s proposed legislation provide selected types of healthcare providers with significant loan repayment assistance, typically up to $50,000 in tax-free funds, in return for a two-year employment commitment to serve in geographic areas or at certain sites known as HPSAs (Health Professions Shortage Areas), where there is a shortage of primary care and other types of providers. Designated HPSA shortage areas include a variety of rural and urban settings, such as the nationwide network of rural and community health centers that receive federal financial assistance.
Under NHSC programs, eligible providers who are able to obtain an employment contract with an NHSC-recognized entity may apply for the loan repayment funds. Awards are based on the severity of need for specific provider types and their services in the designated HPSA area or site.
According to ACA’s Department of Government Relations, the 2015 National Chiropractic Leadership Conference (NCLC), Feb. 25-28, in Washington, D.C., will serve as a major lobbying opportunity to build support for the legislation. Additionally, all chiropractic physicians and students are encouraged to visit ACA’s Legislative Action Center to directly contact their local U.S. House member ahead of NCLC 2015 and urge them to co-sponsor and support enactment of the bill.
H.R.542 falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which Harper sits as a senior member.