Delaware lawmakers are hopeful that a bill to provide a Health Care Provider Loan Repayment Program will attract more primary care physicians to the state.

House Bill 257, a bipartisan led effort, would help pay off student loan debt for new primary care physicians who practice in the state of Delaware.

Over the course of the past few years, it has become increasingly more difficult for the average person to seek primary care in the state of Delaware.

From longer wait periods for patients seeking an appointment, to a disproportionate amount of primary care doctors stretched across the state, the state has saw a six-percent decrease in primary care providers.

The legislation, sponsored by State Representative Bryan Shupe, would attract new primary care physicians to the state through a new loan repayment program that would allow the Delaware Health Care Commission to award education loan repayment grants to new primary care providers of up to $50,000 per year for a maximum of 4 years.

In an interview with WGMD’s Rob Petree, Rep. Shupe explains…
“It’s getting worse,” Rep. Shupe explained. “We do need to have some efforts through public-private partnerships to get our primary care physicians into Delaware.”

In 2018, there were 815 active primary care physicians in Delaware, according to a study released by the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS).

For those migrating to Kent and Sussex Counties who lose their current physician for any number of reasons in those counties could face more difficulty finding a new primary care physician, according to the report.

The overall amount of primary care physicians in Kent and Sussex was far lower than that of New Castle County. As of 2018, a total of 587 primary care doctors were in New Castle while only 126 could be found in Sussex and just 102 in Kent.

Roughly 79% of medical school graduates carry $100,000 or more of education debt upon graduation, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

One of the many things those recent grads keep an eye out for when searching for employment is state sponsored loan repayment programs such as the one that would be implemented if House Bill 257 is passed.

“This bill creates a public-private partnership for us to help our physicians decide to open up here in Delaware,” Rep. Shupe explained. “They will be able to have a loan repayment program for their loans.”

The State of Delaware, private insurance companies located in the state, and the network of hospitals across the state, would each put in $1 million to the loan repayment program to help fund the effort as part of the bill.

The legislation is currently in the House Health & Human Development Committee.

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