Vermilion: Supporting rural health care workers, underserved areas

Posted by: Lydia Kirschner  | Friday, January 8, 2021

Indiana state lawmakers recently kicked off the 2021 legislative session at the Statehouse and I am eager to get to work serving our community in the General Assembly. This session, I am co-authoring legislation that would support many health care workers in underserved areas through a health workforce student loan repayment program.

The program would grant loan repayments to those working in areas where there is a shortage of health care professionals. To be eligible to receive a student loan repayment award, applicants would also provide essential services to Indiana residents and have an outstanding student loan balance.

While this year has taken its toll on all of our health care workers, some in smaller, rural communities already faced challenges with shortages of nurses, doctors and supporting staff. Of the more than 7,200 federally designated health professional shortage areas, 3 out of 5 are in rural regions, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Although health care workers are often needed in rural areas, many in the field choose to work for larger providers in more populated communities as they may be able to pay more. With the rising cost of higher education, it can be hard to retain these workers in rural, underserved areas.

By helping alleviate some of the financial burden these health care workers face from student loan debt, this proposed legislation would encourage them to work or continue working in smaller communities where they are needed. While our state and country continue to see a shortage of nurses, this program would also help attract more people to the health care industry.

The health workforce student loan repayment program would not only support Hoosier health care workers serving rural areas, but also help the underserved communities to retain those in these important professions. At this time, House Bill 1021 has been assigned to the House Ways and Means Committee. To learn more, visit iga.in.gov. For questions on this legislation, or other state or local issues, please reach out to 317-234-9499 or h31@iga.in.gov.

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State Rep. Ann Vermilion (R-Marion) represents House District 31,

which includes all of Blackford County and portions of Delaware,

Grant and Wells counties.

Click here to download a high-resolution photo.