Cantwell Announces Statewide Impact of Her Law Expanding National Program to Bring More Doctors to Rural and Underserved Communities

National Health Service Corps placed 100 doctors in 2004;Cantwell's law could bring another 70 doctors to Washington state

SPOKANE, WA – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Spokane Valley medical professionals today announced that her legislation expanding the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) could bring 70 new doctors to rural and underserved communities in Washington state, more than half of which are likely to be in Central and Eastern Washington. NHSC is a federal program that places doctors in rural and underserved communities by offering grants and loan repayments. Cantwell's legislation expanding the program became law last Friday with President Bush's signature.

"This common sense solution will help make health care more accessible for more working families," said Cantwell. "With this tax relief, Washington state could see as many as 70 more medical professionals in our rural and underserved communities, with the majority of them practicing medicine right here in eastern Washington."

Cantwell's legislation expands the National Health Service Corps' capacity by nearly 70% by making the program's payments to medical professionals tax-free. Under previous law, the NHSC not only offered grants and loan repayments but it was forced to pay the tax that was assessed to doctors for those payments. These tax payments took up 40% of the program's $100 million budget. By making the grants and loan repayments tax-free, the NHSC will be able to spend nearly 70% more on the actual program, as intended, instead of on taxes.

This expansion will have a dramatic impact throughout Washington state. In 2004, the NHSC program placed 100 doctors throughout the state. A 70% expansion would increase that number by 70 to a total of 170. The following table shows the regional breakdown of the potential new impact:

Region 2004 NHSC clinicians Potential new NHSC clinicians Central/Eastern WA 57 40 Northwest WA 8 5 to 6 Olympic Peninsula/ SW WA 15 10 to 11 Puget Sound 20 14 Total 100 70

The NHSC was created by former U.S. Senator Warren Magnuson of Washington state in 1970. Over 450 doctors have been placed in Washington state through the program. Nationally, 2,700 medical professionals have been placed by the NHSC in 2004, serving nearly 4 million Americans. Since the inception of the NHSC program, nearly 23,000 medical professionals have served nation wide. More than 70 percent of NHSC medical professionals continue to serve rural and underserved communities after their NHSC program completes and 80 percent of those stay in the location in which they were originally placed.

Cantwell made her announcement at the Community Health Association of Spokane North Maple Street location, where Cantwell originally announced her legislation in 2002.

Cantwell was joined by Peg Hopkins, CEO of the Community Health Association of Spokane, Kris Sparks, Director of the Office of Community and Rural Health of the Washington State Department of Health, and a physician from CHAS who participated in the NHSC program.