Investing in Rural Health Care in Alabama remained a top priority for the Medical Association this past Legislative Session and will be going forward. Ensuring affordable, high quality and physician-led access to quality care for rural residents not only means a healthier Alabama, but is also a piece of the economic development puzzle for maintaining and improving communities throughout the State. Each year, the Medical Association supports funding for programs like the Rural Medical Scholars Program at the University of Alabama, Rural Medicine Program at Auburn University and the Board of Medical Scholarship Award (BMSA) which grants medical-school-scholarship-loans to pre-med students, medical students and resident physicians to help attract them to underserved parts of the State.
The Rural Medical Scholars program works to recruit and assist Alabama college students from rural areas who want to become physicians and work in the state’s rural communities. Since its founding in 1996, more than 200 students have participated in the Rural Medical Scholars Program, and 126 have completed medical school and residency. Of those, the vast majority practice in Alabama, in mostly rural areas, and 65% are primary care physicians. As well, thanks to the leadership from both Governor Ivey and the Legislature, the Association was able to maintain the total amount for physician-student loans in 2023 via the BMSA at $1.9 million, establishing 8 new physicians in underserved parts of the state through medical school tuition loans.
The Association also worked on crafting a long-overdue update to the existing rural physician tax credit. Since its inception in 1993, many things have changed in rural Alabama and the current eligibility requirements are outdated. The Association worked with the Alabama Department of Revenue on the bill and although it did not pass, much progress was made and the Association maintains updating the rural physician tax credit as a priority for next session.
Most physicians who come from rural areas and/or begin their careers in rural areas usually stay and practice in those communities. These programs remain one of the best mechanisms for expanding access to quality, physician-led care and help to attract and keep physicians in underserved communities. As the Medical Association gears up for the 2023 regular session, the Association looks forward to working with the Legislature to increase access to quality care in rural communities throughout the state and grow the physician workforce in Alabama to better care for citizens.