The US Department of Education has resumed a “consensus rule-making process” to amend the Higher Education Act, which includes the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). The California Medical Association (CMA) and the Texas Medical Association (TMA) have urged the US Department of Education for years to remedy the unfair denial of PSLF benefits to doctors in California and Texas due to conflicting state laws. CMA aggressively pursues both legislative as well as normative fix to this point so that California and Texas physicians are not discouraged from participating in the loan forgiveness program.
Congress launched a government service loan forgiveness program in 2007 to improve access to health care by encouraging doctors to pursue careers with nonprofit organizations. Under the program, individuals can be forgiven for education loans after making 120 qualifying monthly payments under the applicable nonprofit hospital repayment plan.
Unfortunately, when the US Department of Education wrote the executive rules, they narrowed the rules by requiring doctors to be hired directly. Because the laws of the states of California and Texas prohibit most doctors from working in hospitals, our doctors were inadvertently excluded from the program. Physicians from all 48 states participate in the program.
CMA, TMA, with the California Hospital Association (CHA) and the Texas Hospital Association (THA) sent a joint letter to the Department of Education in response to a request for comment, urging the department to reopen the rules and amend the PSLF program to allow all eligible California and Texas physicians to participate. CMA vice president of federal affairs, Elizabeth McNeill, also testified on behalf of the CMA, CHA, TMA and THA before the Department of Education during their recent hearings on the matter.
The unintentional exclusion of doctors from California and Texas puts our states at a huge disadvantage in recruiting young doctors who prefer to practice in other states where they have an average medical education loan debt of $ 250,000.
CMA urges the Department of Education to ensure equal treatment of doctors, hospitals and patients in all 50 states through the PSLF program. We need to be able to work on an equal footing with other states to attract young doctors who can keep pace with the growing demand for patient care.