Bill Offers Incentive to Health Care Providers

Fund would help primary care physicians and other health care providers pay off student loans.

State lawmakers are considering a measure that would help new health professionals pay off their student loans in exchange for practicing primary care in critical shortage areas across Texas.

New primary health providers are often heavily in debt and want higher paying jobs.

"There is a shortage, because the providers who come out of school have loans that are as much as $160,000 on the average, and they want to work in an organization where they can actually pay those loans back, " said Joyce Tapley, CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Clinic.

Dr. Stormee Williams keeps so busy at the clinic that patients have to wait longer than they should.

"It's kind of hard for us to get the patients in as they need to be seen," Williams said. "So as of right now, if a person called to make an appointment with me, because I'm the only pediatrician here, they may have to wait three to four weeks to get an appointment."

It's frustrating for patients, too.

"If I have a 10 o'clock appointment, I expect to be seen at 10, I expect to be home no later  than 11:30 or 12," Sharron Blair said. "I don't want to spend my whole day at the doctor's office."

If passed, the bill would create the Texas Health Care Access Fund to help physicians, nurse practitioners and dentists pay off student loans if they make a four-year committment to work in underserved areas.

"The fact that you might be able to get help with your loans to work here -- I know will be a big incentive for a lot of people," Williams said.

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