Cortez Masto and Murkowski Introduce Biparty Legislation to Address Health Care Provider Shortage in Native American Communities



U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) And Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced bipartisan legislation to help Indian Health Services (IHS) recruit and hire more medical professionals by providing student medical, nursing and other fully tax-exempt scholarships and loan repayment programs. IHS has a 25 percent vacancy rate for healthcare providers and currently needs more than 1,300 positions filled, which this legislation could help address.

In order to attract talented new health care professionals, Congress has already exempted the majority of federal scholarship and reimbursement programs, including those of the Department of Defense and the National Health Service Corps, from tax. Through the IHS Health Professions Tax Fairness Act, Cortez Masto and Murkowski ensure that IHS programs are treated fairly and enjoy the same tax exemption.

“As the Indian country faces a severe shortage of doctors and nurses, expanding the capacity of the IHS to provide financial assistance to medical students and new health workers makes good sense. “ said Senator Cortez Masto. “This legislation will allow IHS facilities in Nevada to recruit and hire more doctors, nurses and other clinicians to help save lives and keep Native American communities healthy.”

“High job vacancy rates for physicians, nurses and other health care providers in our Indigenous communities continue to be a barrier to providing adequate care. Sadly, the existing inequalities facing indigenous communities have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. These staff shortages underscore how much additional resources are needed to deal with the financial burdens our healthcare workers face. I am proud to reintroduce the Indian Healthcare Professions Tax Fairness Act with Senator Cortez Masto, to help the agency recruit and retain more healthcare providers, ” said Senator Lisa Murkowski.

The Government Accountability Office reported that the Indian Health Service (IHS) has a 25 percent vacancy rate for health care providers and needs more than 1,300 clinical providers for doctors, nurses and other clinical staff. By making IHS scholarships and loan repayment programs permanently tax-exempt, IHS can fund more scholarships and provide financial support to Indigenous students enrolled in profession programs in the health in exchange for these students’ agreement to work in the Service after graduation.

Related issues: Native Alaska and rural Alaska

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