State would be wise to invest in doctors

The Olympian

For a modest investment of $3 million, state lawmakers could help ease the shortage of primary care physicians across Washington.

South Sound, like Eastern Washington and other sectors of the state, has a shortage of primary care doctors. New physicians can make more money by going into a specialty.

The shortage of primary care doctors reduces the quality of care in a community, and it fills hospital emergency rooms with uninsured patients who turn to the ER for their primary care needs such as sore throats and earaches. Cost of treating those patients is expensive, and the cost is shifted to patients with medical insurance.

Everybody loses.

Leaders of the Healthy Washington Coalition, a statewide lobbying group of 65 health care agencies and associations, want to increase funding for the Washington State Health Professional Loan Repayment and Scholarship Program. With an investment of $3 million, the state would add opportunities for 100 physicians to receive school loan repayment grants of up to $25,000 a year for three years. In exchange for having a portion of their medical school costs covered, the new physicians would have to agree to serve as a family care physician in an under-served portion of the state for three years. Experience shows most graduates of the program serve for six years.

That’s a huge benefit for a small investment of state dollars. The $3 million wasn’t in the original House budget. The Legislature should look favorably upon this proposal.
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