A budget proposal Gov. Terry Branstad made last month to attract more physicians to Iowa’s less populated areas by forgiving medical school debt is welcome news to longtime surgeon Dr. Phil Caropreso.
Caropreso, who practices in Keokuk in southeast Iowa, said such an offer might lure natives from rural parts of the state to work in their home communities without having to worry about making enough to pay off massive debts.
“We need any help we can get and honestly in this time, financially there’s a big need for money,” said Caropreso, 66. “If you come from a rural area, you’re more likely to return and (it helps) if you sweeten the deal along the way.”
Branstad’s plan, announced in January, responds to a persistent problem in Iowa, which ranked 40th for the ratio of doctors to residents, according to a 2011 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges. The report listed Iowa as having 6,300 doctors.
Neighboring states Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska all ranked higher.
Citing his experience as president of a medical school, Branstad has proposed a series of reforms. He wants to spend $2 million annually to pay off student loans for up to 20 students who commit to working five years in a rural part of Iowa — jobs that can often pay less than other physician positions. He wants to spend another $2 million a year to provide matching grants to hospitals to create more medical residencies. And he wants to revise rules governing medical lawsuits in Iowa, which he said will make the state a more attractive place to practice.
Do you think the state should pay off student loans for new doctors who agree to practice in a rural area of Iowa for at least five years?