Senators push bill to boost funding for scholarships, loans for health care workers

A bipartisan bill would increase funding to a program that provides scholarships and loan repayment programs to primary care providers.

The goal is to encourage more people to join the profession at a time when doctor shortages are projected to worsen in the next decade. The U.S. faces a projected shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 doctors within 12 years, according to a report from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., introduced the Restoring America’s Health Care Workforce and Readiness Act. It would increase funding for the National Health Service Corps to expand America’s supply of health care workers. The National Health Service Corps supports primary care medical, dental, and behavioral health providers through scholarships and loan repayment programs.

"Increasing our investment in the National Health Service Corps will remedy that shortage by encouraging more people to pursue careers in the medical field and service in areas of need," Rubio said in a statement.

Durbin said the National Health Service Corps helps build the next generation of health care providers, including doctors and dentists.

"The demands of the pandemic have exacerbated workforce shortages, especially in our underserved rural and urban communities," Durbin said in a statement. "Through scholarship and loan repayment, the National Health Service Corps is the premier program to build the pipeline of doctors, nurses, dentists, and behavioral health providers across America."

The measure would reauthorize funding for the National Health Service Corps and extend it through fiscal year 2026. Rubio and Durbin previously introduced a similar proposal in 2020 and 2021.

President Joe Biden's recent budget proposal called for $966 million in 2024 to expand the National Health Service Corps, according to the White House.

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