Cortez Masto, Murkowski Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Address Shortage of Health Care Providers in Native American Communities

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

In order to attract new, talented health professionals, Congress has already made the majority of federal health scholarship and repayment programs permanently tax exempt, including those at the Department of Defense and the National Health Service Corps. Through the IHS Health Professions Tax Fairness Act, Cortez Masto and Murkowski are working to ensure IHS programs are treated fairly and receive that same tax exemption.

“As Indian Country deals with dire doctor and nurse shortages, expanding the IHS’s capacity to provide financial aid to medical students and new health workers is just common 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 vacancy rates for doctors, nurses, and other health care providers in our Native communities continues to be a hindrance in providing adequate care. Unfortunately, the existing inequities Native communities face were compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. These staffing shortages emphasize just how much additional resources are needed to assist with the financial burdens that our health care workers are experiencing. I am proud to reintroduce the Indian Health Service Health 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 has reported that the Indian health Service (IHS) has a 25 percent vacancy rate for health care providers and is in need of over 1,300 clinical providers for doctors, nurses, and other clinical staff. By making IHS scholarships and loan repayment programs permanently tax exempt, the IHS can fund more scholarships and provide financial support for Native students enrolled in health profession programs in exchange for those students’ agreement to work at the Service upon graduation.

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