Medical Residency Personal Finance

Give Indian Health Service physicians a head start on loan forgiveness

Brendan Murphy , Senior News Writer

AMA News Wire

Give Indian Health Service physicians a head start on loan forgiveness

Jun 12, 2024

Physicians working for Indian Health Service ranked in the bottom-quartile of agencies within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for employee engagement and satisfaction, according to data cited in a resolution introduced by the Oklahoma State Medical Association during the 2024 AMA Annual Meeting.

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The AMA already has policy supporting loan forgiveness for physicians practicing in a Veterans Administration facility through the public service loan forgiveness (PSLF) program and to boost compensation for Indian Health Service (IHS) to a level competitive with other federal agencies and nongovernmental service, as the resolution notes. Now the AMA House of Delegates has strengthened that policy and acted to make PSLF changes to specifically help doctors practicing in the Indian Health Service.

“This is a win-win for medical students and tribal communities,” said AMA Immediate Past President Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH. “About 83 million Americans live in areas that don’t have sufficient access to a primary care physician. That is unacceptable. At the same time, students are graduating from medical school with huge financial burdens. Working under the IHS or other similar programs offers a great learning experience for new physicians as they serve communities that so desperately need better access to medical care.”

Delegates modified existing AMA policy to:

  • Call for an immediate change in PSLF to allow physicians to receive immediate, but incremental, loan forgiveness when they practice in an Indian Health Service, tribal or Urban Indian Health Program.
  • Support reform of the Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program eligibility for repayment with either a part-time or full-time employment commitment to IHS and tribal health programs.

The House further modified AMA policy to call for:

  • Increasing compensation scales for Indian Health Service physicians to a level competitive with other Federal agencies and nongovernmental service
  • Consider giving increased compensation for specialty and primary care service in remote areas.
  • Efforts to establish closer ties with teaching centers and other federal health agencies, thus increasing both the available staffing and the level of professional expertise available for consultation.
  • Maintaining allied health-professional staffing of Indian Health Service facilities at a level appropriate to the special needs of the population served without detracting from physician compensation.
  • Providing continuing education for those health professionals serving these communities, and especially those in remote areas, and increased peer contact, both to maintain the quality of care and to avert professional isolation and burnout.

This was one of a number of new policies adopted by the AMA to advance Native American health

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Get 1-on-1 help with loan forgiveness

AMA members can get help identifying their student-loan repayment options. Laurel Road student-loan experts at GradFin have helped borrowers qualify for an average of $110,000 in medical student-loan forgiveness and can help residents, fellows and other physicians understand how to manage their student-loan options, including PSLF.

Program benefits include a free, 30-minute session with a GradFin specialist to explore your student-loan repayment options. AMA members get a $50 discount when they open an annual membership with GradFin for PSLF services. Learn more.

Dive deeper with the AMA’s new medical student financial FAQ, which offers key insights on medical student-loan forgiveness and repayment

Read about the other highlights from the 2024 AMA Annual Meeting.