Senator Jon Tester is introducing bipartisan legislation to recruit more health care professionals to rural Montana and other underserved parts of the country.
Tester's bill will make physical therapists eligible to participate in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). The NHSC provides loan repayments to primary care professionals who commit to working in regions designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas.
All 56 Montana counties qualify as Health Professional Shortage Areas in some capacity, meaning that there are too few medical providers in those counties to meet the needs of the local population.
Tester said encouraging more physical therapists to work in underserved areas like rural Montana will improve Americans' quality of life. Physical therapists help people rehabilitate from injury or illness, allowing them to regain independence and prevent future medical problems.
"Bringing more talented medical professionals to Montana will help folks get the care they need," Tester said. "This bill supports students who commit to working in underserved areas and to helping Montanans lead healthier, fuller lives."
Tester's bill, which is co-sponsored by Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), is supported by the American Physical Therapy Association.
"We are pleased to see the introduction of this legislation as it addresses the growing demand for physical therapists, and provides greater patient access to necessary rehabilitation in underserved communities across the country," said the President of the American Physical Therapy Association, Dr. Paul A. Rocker Jr., PT, DPT, MS.
An NHSC participant must commit to two years of full-time service in exchange for up to $60,000 of loan repayment. Medical professionals currently eligible for the NHSC include primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and mental health professionals.