For far too long, rheumatologists have fallen between the cracks of federal and state student loan forgiveness programs aimed at increasing access to healthcare in underserved areas. The ACR has worked on both the federal and state fronts to open up these programs to rheumatology. As part of that effort, the ACR crafted model state legislation that would create a student loan forgiveness program for cognitive specialists, including both adult and pediatric rheumatologists, who don’t qualify for the federal Health Resources & Service Administration program.
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On Jan. 27, HB-2852 was introduced in the Washington Legislature. If passed, it would allow pediatric rheumatologists practicing in the state access to the state’s loan forgiveness program for the first time. The bill was introduced by Rep. Gina Mosbrucker (R-14) and is co-sponsored by Reps. Eric Pettigrew (D-37), Chris Corry (R-14), Mike Steele (R-12), Mike Sells (D-38) and Skylar Rude (R-16). This legislation would require the state loan forgiveness program to consider pediatric rheumatologists who apply.
Importantly, the bill points out the rheumatology workforce shortage that exists and states explicitly that the legislation is designed to incentivize more physicians to specialize in pediatric and juvenile rheumatology. This simple, official acknowledgment is important to highlight the access issues that plague patients who suffer from pediatric and juvenile rheumatologic conditions.
We are thankful to Rep. Mosbrucker and the bill co-sponsors for taking this important first step to fill the rheumatology workforce gap. Much remains to be done to ensure this measure gets passed. We are currently collaborating with our partners in the state to build a coalition to support this legislation. If you are in Washington and would like to get involved in the effort or if you are in another state and would like to replicate this effort, contact Joseph Cantrell, ACR’s senior manager of state affairs, at [email protected].
The ACR is working on this issue at the federal level as well. For more information, visit the ACR’s Legislative Action Center and learn how you can support our work in Washington, D.C.
Joseph Cantrell, JD, is the senior manager of state affairs for the ACR.