Today, U.S. Senators Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced bipartisan legislation to make it easier for the Indian Health Services (IHS) to recruit and retain physicians. IHS has a 25 percent vacancy rate for health care providers, and this legislation would help attract new doctors to the agency that serves over two million American Indian and Alaskan Native Tribal members.
To help recruit more doctors to IHS facilities, this bipartisan bill would allow health care providers working part-time to access IHS scholarship and loan repayment programs. Many IHS sites do not have a full-time clinician, and the current requirement for doctors to work full-time in order to access these benefits discourages health care professionals from serving tribal communities. This bill would bring IHS in line with the National Health Service Corps loan and scholarship programs.
“I am confident this legislation will address the current difficulty IHS is facing in recruiting and retaining health care professionals,” said Senator Mullin. “Rural health care providers like IHS have unique staffing needs, and this amendment to the IHS scholarship and loan service obligation offers a flexible, cost-effective solution to ensure IHS maintains a competitive edge when considering new recruits. Further, part-time clinical practices offer new opportunities for those who are also considering private practice or have the additional responsibility of administrative tasks. In strengthening the workforce, IHS can ensure a proper quality of care to their patients and improve patient outcomes.”
“Too many Tribal members can’t access the health care they need because of a dire doctor shortage in Indian Country,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “We need to make it easier for IHS to recruit and retain qualified health professionals. This bipartisan bill will keep Tribal communities healthy and bring more doctors and nurses to IHS facilities in Nevada and across the country.”
The Government Accountability Office has reported that the Indian health Service (IHS) is in need of over 1,300 clinical providers for doctors, nurses, and other clinical staff. Mullin’s bill would allow providers who might not otherwise consider service in IHS to fill an urgent need while also operating a part-time private practice or combining their service with part-time administrative duties at the IHS.