HHS Secretary Sebelius today announced the appointment of a committee to review and update the criteria used to define medically underserved areas and health professional shortage areas. The formation of this committee was provided for in the Affordable Care Act.
The committee comprises 24 members who are key stakeholders representing programs that are most affected by these designations. Those programs include:
• Community Health Centers,
• Rural health clinics and health care practitioners,
• Special populations with unique health care needs,
• Technical experts in the area of research in health care access and statistical methods.
“I am pleased to announce this committee of distinguished experts,” said Secretary Sebelius. “The purpose of this committee is to examine current methods for identifying areas of need and underservice and propose revisions if they deem that appropriate.”
“Every effort was made to maintain a geographic and demographic representation for this committee,” said HRSA Administrator Dr. Mary Wakefield. “The committee will begin meeting later this year and be open to the public in the interest of transparency.”
An area must have a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) designation to be eligible to apply for the placement of National Health Service Corps providers, and the Medically Underserved Population designation is used as a basis for awarding grants to Community Health Centers which are located in underserved communities. There is also a bonus payment to physicians under Medicare for services provided in HPSAs. A variety of other federal and state programs also use these designations to target resources to areas of need.
Meeting schedules for the committee will be published in the Federal Register with a target date for a draft final proposal in July 2011.