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Letters to the Editor

Doctors without debts

| Sunday, June 10, 2007

Eric Heyl's column on Montgomery County state Rep. Josh Shapiro's proposed medical school loan-forgiveness program (HB 1093) underestimates the physician shortage problem in Pennsylvania and its effects on public health in our commonwealth ("Proposal will treat docs with urgent care," June 6 and PghTrib.com).

The physician shortage is especially serious in rural Pennsylvania, where finding primary care physicians and certain specialists, such as obstetricians, is often difficult. More than 30 percent of Pennsylvanians live in rural areas. Student loan forgiveness might encourage physicians to practice in these medically underserved areas by defraying the lower compensation that physicians receive for providing medical care in rural parts of the state.

Physicians, particularly those in private practice, are similar to small business owners who have employees and pay for services needed to run the businesses. The excessive costs for mandated professional liability insurance for new physicians starting a private practice in the commonwealth is a strong deterrent.

Reimbursements to Pennsylvania's physicians from private health insurers, Medicare and Medicaid are low and do not keep pace with the growing costs of running a medical practice. Such a competitive disadvantage is the driving force behind young physicians leaving Pennsylvania for opportunities in other states.

The Allegheny County Medical Society supports HB 1093 because it would provide an economic incentive for physicians to stay in Pennsylvania and would help to recruit physicians to practice in rural and medically underserved areas.

Krishnan A. Gopal North Side

The writer is president of the Allegheny County Medical Society.

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