Legislation to establish a Frontline Providers Loan Repayment Program that includes PTs has been introduced by Rep Bruce Braley (D-Iowa). The Access to Frontline Health Care Act of 2009 (HR 2891) would encourage PTs to practice in underserved areas, says the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), Alexandria, Va.
HR 2891, which would amend the Public Health Service Act, creates a process that is similar to the National Health Services Corp (NHSC), in which a provider signs a commitment to practice in an area for at least 2 years in exchange for student loan repayment. PTs are not included in the NHSC’s Loan Repayment Program. The legislation would complement the Physical Therapist Student Loan Repayment Eligibility Act of 2009 (HR 988), which would allow PTs to participate in the NHSC’s program.
Under HR 2891, providers pledge to practice in a "Frontline Scarcity Area." Scarcity areas include a Health Professional Shortage Area as defined by the Health Resources and Services Administration Shortage Designation Branch of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), or an area designated by a state as having a shortage of frontline care services. HHS’ Secretary can give preference to a scarcity area in which an entity has demonstrated that it has an interdisciplinary program, or pledges to initiate such a program. The Secretary also determines the amount of the loan repayment.
In addition to physical therapy, the following qualify as frontline services: general surgery, chiropractic, optometry, ophthalmology, audiology, speech language pathology, pharmacy, public health, podiatric medicine, dietetics, occupational therapy, general pediatrics, respiratory therapy, medical technology, and radiologic technology. All services must be performed by a health care provider with the appropriate education.