Doctors in Missouri may soon be rewarded for their work in rural areas.
The Missouri House Committee on Rural Community Development on Thursday discussed a bill to help bridge the gap between rural and urban areas in health care.
Currently, 52 percent of Missouri’s doctors live in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, or Jackson County. Another 8 percent live in Boone County.
The bill would create a grant program for general practitioners willing to live and work in a rural county with fewer than 35,000 residents. The program would pay $ 10,000 a year for a five-year agreement. Doctors who fail the full five years would be punished.
“We need more general practitioners in rural communities,” said Morse. He was referring to his own medical history, where his doctors have repeatedly moved to larger communities.
Rep. Brad Pollitt, R-Sedalia, questioned whether $ 10,000 was enough incentive to convince people to move to rural areas.
“I have no idea,” said Morse. He said even if it stopped a few doctors from moving away, it would have been worth it.
The bill was supported by both parties.
“I’m a back-up nurse, so I think this bill is great,” said Patty Lewis, a rep. From Kansas City, D. “Anything that provides medical care to the rural community is a fantastic idea.”
Lewis asked if the bill could be extended to advanced nurses, given the significant shortage of general practitioners not just in rural areas but across the state. These nurses could help meet this need. Morse said he was open to the idea.
State MP Barry Hovis, R-Whitewater, pointed out the difficulty of securing funding for programs under the Legislative Funding process and suggested that it might be easier to incentivize in Grant form of tax credits instead of grants. That would provide funding without the need for government funding.
The Missouri Hospital Association and the Missouri Farm Bureau both supported Morse’s bill.
The work of the Missouri News Network was written by students and editors of the Missouri School of Journalism for publication by member newspapers of the Missouri Press Association.