Lawmakers try to lure doctors to Wyoming
By Michelle Dynes
Wyoming isnâ€™t the only state struggling to recruit doctors.
But lawmakers hope an incentive package that includes moving expenses, two years worth of malpractice insurance premiums and a signing bonus of up to $30,000 will make the state a more attractive option for medical professionals.
Senate File 35 would create a grant program through the Wyoming Department of Health for recruitment, prioritizing assistance for underserved communities. The legislation also includes a loan repayment program for physicians and dentists.
Rep. Lori Millin, D-Cheyenne, said she worked on a similar bill to provide loan assistance last year, but while this legislation had a tool for retention there was nothing for recruitment.
â€œWe realized we were losing physicians to other states,â€? she said. â€œAll of Wyoming is medically underserved.â€?
Millin added that Rep. Tim Hallinan, R-Gillette, had to hire a doctor from out of state to cover his practice while he served in the Legislature last year.
Sen. Bob Fecht, R-Cheyenne, said another problem is that Wyoming has one of the highest malpractice insurance rates when some states pay a percentage of this cost.
â€œThere is a tremendous shortage of physicians, both specialist and primary care, and it is statewide,â€? he said. â€œEarlier this year I attended a conference with about 15 other states. Physician recruitment was a problem for the legislative representatives of every one of those states.â€?
Rep. Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, said nationwide the demand for doctors exceeds the supply. Larger hospitals can offer attractive incentive packages but smaller practices struggle to remain competitive.
Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, said there also are fewer doctors coming out of medical school coupled with an aging population. And Wyomingâ€™s shortage is magnified by its isolation and the distance between towns.
â€œSeveral of our dentists have expressed concern to me about who is going to be there when our baby boomer dentists retire,â€? he said. â€œMany are at retirement age now. (Senate File 35) is an attempt to give communities some much-needed resources to go out into the marketplace and compete for those health-care professionals.â€?
Physicians who accept one of the incentive packages also must agree to spend at least two years in the community they were recruited to. Towns or hospitals that successfully attract a new physician can be reimbursed for their recruiting efforts up to $10,000. Physicians or dentists with outstanding educational loans can be reimbursed up to 100 percent under the legislation.
The bill also requests $890,000 from the general fund to get the grant program started.