McGeachin casts decisive vote to pass medical school tuition reimbursement bill
Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin voted Wednesday morning in the Idaho Senate to pass a bill that will require Idaho medical school graduates to practice in the state for at least four years or pay back tuition fees subsidized by public money. .
Under Rules of the Senatethe lieutenant governor of Idaho acts as president of the Senate and can vote in the event of a tie.
House Bill 718 outlines contract requirements for students who are accepted into the Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho Regional Medical Education Program, better known as WWAMI, at the University of Idaho or the University from Utah. WWAMI is Idaho only medical school which is partially funded by state dollars, and the medical school that produces the most rural doctors for the state, with incentives available for those who decide to practice in rural Idaho. Idaho also has a private for-profit company faculty of osteopathic medicine at Meridian.
WWAMI is part of the University of Washington Medical School, but every applicant who joins the Idaho branch is an Idaho resident. The school welcomes about 40 students per year. Some seats are reserved for Idaho students at the University of Utah.
The Idaho Legislature also passed a resolution indicating its intention to finance 10 additional places for Idaho students in the WWAMI program starting in 2025.
The program costs the University of Idaho about $80,000 per year, with state support covering about half of the tuition.
Most physicians set up practice where they completed their residency after medical school. After medical school, students apply to be “matched” with residency programs and may not be able to choose their program location. Idaho has very few residency seats — a fact R-Star Rep. Mike Moyle acknowledged and said they were working on when he introduced the bill to the House earlier this month. .
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Dr. Mary Barinaga, assistant dean for regional affairs and a graduate of the WWAMI program, said in a statement sent to the Idaho Capital Sun that the residency issue is no small factor.
“A big piece of that puzzle is adding residency spots, as well as more specialties, to Idaho. Graduate doctors must complete an additional residency of three to seven years to practice, and these young adults may have a harder time returning to Idaho if they do their residency elsewhere,” Barinaga said.
The new bill would mean a graduate could have to repay about $120,000 if they don’t match an Idaho residency program or return to Idaho to practice after completing their training. postgraduate elsewhere.
The Senate held back the bill for a day after debate began in Tuesday’s sitting, saying there were questions that needed time to be answered. The debate was quite short on Wednesday.
Sen. Robert Blair, R-Kendrick, sponsored the bill in the Senate and said other WWAMI states, including Alaska, Wyoming and Montana, have existing laws similar to Bill 718. .
During a House committee meeting on a bill earlier this month, Moyle said he didn’t know how long those contracts had been in place in other states or if they had produced the desired results for more students to stay in the state to practice medicine.
“I know one started, then the next one, and it snowballed through all of them,” Moyle said. “They have to think it works, otherwise they wouldn’t all do it.”
Students in the program would commit to entering full-time active professional practice in Idaho within one year of obtaining a license to practice medicine or completing a residency or fellowship. The repayment obligation would not be subject to interest and could be suspended or canceled in the event of hardship or other special circumstances related to military service. The requirement would apply to students who enroll in the WWAMI program at the University of Idaho or the University of Utah in fall 2023 and beyond.
Idaho ranks near the bottom of states in the nation for the number of active physicians in primary care and 49th for all active physicians. According to the Idaho Department of Health and Wellness, almost every corner of Idahoor 98%, suffers from a shortage of primary care physicians.
“It’s no secret that Idaho needs more doctors,” University of Idaho WWAMI director Jeff Seegmiller said in a statement to the Idaho Capital Sun. “Idaho WWAMI exposes students to practice in rural or underserved communities throughout the four years of medical school. With a required return on investment, we hope to see these same students apply this experience to improve patient outcomes throughout Gem State.