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The Colorado Independent reports that U.S. Sen. Mark Udall has introduced two amendments to the Senate health care bill that are designed to increase medical services in rural areas. “There are not enough doctors who want to practice outside major metro areas. In fact, of the 47 rural counties [in Colorado]—that’s out of 64 counties, total—all but three are designated by the federal government as health professional shortage areas,” Udall told Independent reporter Katie Redding.
Udall contends that if all medical schools took ten students in programs aimed at rural medicine, the number of doctors practicing in rural areas would double. Therefore, Udall’s first amendment would provide money to medical schools to train doctors for rural practice. “Primary care doctors in rural areas face challenges that urban doctors do not,” Udall wrote in a website post about the original bill. “When a physician is the only health care provider for an entire county, he or she cannot refer patients down the hall to a specialist.”
The second amendment would ensure that some of the Community Transformation Grants (which are part of the bill) would go to rural places. The grants are to help reduce chronic disease. The cost of the two amendments have not been estimated by the Congressional Budget Office. The “Rural Physician Pipeline Amendment contains no provisions for funding. Udall wants to secure passage of the intent to fund programs for rural doctors and then return in later years to secure about $4 million a year to pay for the training.