The Georgia Medical Board is requesting public comment on a rule change that would protect the licenses of doctors who default on their student loans or don’t meet their service requirements. Previously, when doctors failed to pay their student loan, or didn’t meet the terms of their service, their medical licenses would be suspended. However, under this new ruling, their licenses are protected, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Why the proposed rule change?
As the country is currently undergoing a student loan debt crisis, many medical students leave school with crippling debt. The financial website NerdWallet reports the average med student graduates with an average of $197,000 of student loan debt and an average loan repayment of about $2,200 a month. Proponents of this change believe suspending a doctor’s license is counterproductive to solving loan debt as it takes away the doctor’s ability to earn a living.
The change also lifts the penalty of loss of medical license if a doctor fails to meet their service requirements. Service requirements are another way medical students can get financial assistance for their education by agreeing to work in a rural area or other underserved location for a set period. Critics of the rule change fear that these areas in need of medical professionals will suffer.
The plight of rural hospitals is related to delays and errors in medical treatment
Rural hospitals are currently in decline. A recent NPR poll found that one out of every four Americans living in a rural area said they can’t get access to the healthcare they need. And, a quarter of those people said the reason is because their healthcare location is too far or too difficult to access. And, with high staff turnover, many doctors don’t know their patients’ medical histories.
With more than 100 rural hospitals closing in the United States over the past nine years and hundreds more at risk, the mortality rates in these communities have risen a staggering 5.9 percent. When patients have to travel for healthcare, put off medical care, or delay medical treatment in those valuable first minutes or hours of a health emergency, the results can be tragic as well as preventable.
One of the fears of not removing the penalty of loss of medical license when a doctor fails to complete their service requirements is that these rural hospitals will continue to deteriorate and close due to staff shortages and lack of funding. Potential consequences can lead to increased mortality rates, preventable injuries, and even medical malpractice.
You can find out more about the rule changes and amendments from the Georgia Composite Medical Board here, including information regarding submitting public comments and any updates.
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