Rural Alabama Healthcare to Improve with Loan Repayment Program

By Greg Reed

 

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) last week passed legislation in the Alabama Senate to establish a loan repayment program for students pursuing graduate nursing degrees who agree to practice in rural, underserved areas of the state post-graduation.

An advanced nursing student in an accredited program pursuing a graduate degree to become a certified registered nurse practitioner (CRNP), certified nurse midwife (CNM) or certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) could receive loans worth up to $15,000 a year, for as many as three years for a master’s degree or four years for a doctorate. To repay the loan, eighteen months of service in a medically underserved area of the state would be required for each year a loan was received, with a minimum of three years of service.

“Right now, we have a dramatic shortage of primary health care providers in many parts of Alabama, especially in rural counties,” Reed observed. “This program will give a strong financial incentive for advanced-practice nurses to work in these underserved areas. That will improve the quality and delivery of healthcare.”

In 2013, Alabama ranked 40th among the 50 states in primary-care physicians per person, at 1.03 physicians per 1,000 residents. Highly trained nurse practitioners act as physician extenders, and Reed’s proposal would increase the number of health care provider options for Alabamians in rural counties.

“Advanced-practice nurses are a vital part of our health care system. State data shows we have a shortage of nurses throughout Alabama,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “SB227 will play an integral part in providing much-needed nurses to the areas of our state where nurses are desperately needed.”

“I want to thank Senator Greg Reed for his leadership in sponsoring this important legislation, and I am proud that we are working to improve health care across the state of Alabama,” concluded Bentley.

Senate Bill 227 also provides state income-tax credits of as much as $5,000 per tax year to participants in the program, extending for some years even after they have repaid their loans if they remain in full-time clinical practice in the same area of critical need. The tax credit may not be used in more than 10 total tax years.

Greg Reed is the Alabama Senate Majority Leader and represents Senate District 5, which is comprised of all or parts of Winston, Walker, Tuscaloosa, Jefferson, and Fayette counties.