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State auditor calls for new policies to improve rural healthcare scholarship programs

Photo courtesy of the University of Mississippi Medical Center

State Auditor Shad White is calling on new policies to be implemented to improve two programs meant to address Mississippi’s healthcare shortage.

According to a report from the auditor’s office, the Mississippi rural physicians and dentists scholarship programs have served to address shortages in the state’s healthcare industry. However, he believes more steps need to be taken to have more people working in the fields that have been left nearly barren.

Taxpayers have invested over $33 million into both Rural Scholarship Programs since 2008, and the programs have recently been expanded. The programs have placed at least 119 physicians and 17 dentists in rural areas of the state, though experts say Mississippians need more physicians and dentists today than they did 10 years ago.

“It’s critical that we ensure the rural areas of our state have enough doctors and dentists to serve our people,” White said. “The purpose of this report is to help the rural healthcare scholarships improve their operations to maximize every dollar the taxpayers spend on the programs.”

The report also identifies improvements to policies and procedures that administrators can make. White is calling on administrators to:

  • Tighten the definition of “rural” to guarantee that doctors and dentists are only working in high-need locations outside of a metro area.
  • More closely monitor when a doctor or dentist fails to keep their end of the bargain by not working in a rural area.
  • Be more careful calculating the money scholarship recipients need to repay if they fail to serve in a rural area, as some required repayments were miscalculated.

“With some small improvements, Mississippi can make its healthcare scholarships even stronger,” White stated. “They are helping to meet a critical need in our state and keeping talented doctors and dentists here at home instead of moving to another state.”

Mississippi continues to battle an ongoing hospital crisis. Multiple laws were passed by the legislature this past session to incentivize medical professionals to remain in the state.

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