WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Jack
Reed (R.I.) announced the bipartisan Ensuring Children's Access to Specialty
Care Act. The legislation would expand the National Health Service Corps Loan
Repayment Program (NHSCLRP) to include physicians trained in pediatric
subspecialties, such as child and adolescent psychiatrists.
“The high cost of pursuing a career in a pediatric
subspecialty has led to a shortage of providers who can meet children’s health
care needs,” said Blunt. “This bipartisan bill will expand children’s
access to care by making it more affordable to pursue a career in a pediatric
subspecialty. I’ll continue supporting efforts to expand children’s access to
quality, affordable care.”
“Every child should have access to the pediatric
health services they need, especially kids with a physical, mental, or
behavioral health condition that requires specialty care,” said Reed.
“This bipartisan bill would increase access to specialty care for children and
improve mental health parity for kids served by the National Health Service
Corps program. Without adding any extra costs, it fixes a loophole and allows
licensed pediatric subspecialists working in underserved areas to apply for
student loan repayments through the NHSCLRP.”
Medical residents who specialize in pediatric
medicine require additional training, often resulting in increased student loan
debt. The added financial burden, combined with a retiring pediatric
subspecialty workforce, has led to a shortage of pediatric medical and surgical
subspecialists, and child and adolescent psychiatrists. As a result, families
are experiencing longer wait times and traveling longer distances for children
who require specialized care, which can result in delayed diagnosis and
treatment, and significantly poorer health outcomes.
Ensuring Children's Access to Specialty Care Act will help address shortages
and improve access by modifying the NHSCLRP to allow pediatric subspecialists
working in underserved areas to apply for student loan repayments through the
program. Currently, these providers are effectively ineligible for the program
because they are completing their fellowships during the two-year window in
which they would otherwise be able to apply.