By Assemblymember Marie Waldron
We have some of the best medical care in the world, but accessing that care can be difficult for millions of Californians. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough doctors and nurses, and the situation is likely to get much worse in the near future.
According to the California Future Health Workforce Commission, we don’t have enough healthcare professionals practicing in the right places to meet the needs of our growing and aging population. Many rural areas, including parts of Riverside and North Inland San Diego County in my district, feel the effects of this shortage. Seven million Californians live in federally designated ‘Health Professional Shortage Areas,’ counties with a severe shortage of primary care providers, dentists, or mental health care practitioners. Over the next decade, we face a shortage of 4,100 primary care physicians, nurse practitioners and other medical professionals. According to some estimates, the cost of overcoming this shortage could be more than $3 billion.
There’s no single solution, but Assembly Republicans, are supporting legislation by Assemblyman Heath Flora, (R-Ripon) to expand current programs, including the Steven M. Thompson Physician Corps Loan Repayment Program that currently provides loan repayment for physicians and surgeons up to $105,000 in exchange for a commitment to practice in underserved areas, including rural areas like my district.
Medical student debt averaged $32,000 in 1986. That had escalated to $190,000 by 2016, with some students amassing debt in excess of $200,000 by the time they complete their training. Forgiving college debt for medical and nursing students who commit to work in underserved areas for a minimum of five years could go a long way toward improving patient access and easing the doctor/nursing shortage throughout the state.
Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the communities of Bonsall, Escondido, Fallbrook, Hidden Meadows, Pala, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley, Rainbow, San Marcos, Temecula, Valley Center and Vista.