Proposed tax credits could attract more doctors to rural communities

The Missouri House Committee on Rural Community Development heard on Thursday about a bill that would encourage more doctors to open practices in underserved rural areas by offering tax credits.

“Any of you from rural Missouri know that we just don’t have a lot of doctors,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Herman Morse, R-Dexter.

While 34% of the state’s population lives in rural areas, only 21% of available health care providers serve rural residents, according to a 2020 report from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Office of Rural Health and Primary Care.

If HB 2133 is successful, primary care physicians who practice and reside in counties with fewer than 35,000 residents will be eligible for a $15,000 tax credit beginning in 2023.

Committee members expressed support for the spirit of the bill, but pointed to potential shortcomings and pitfalls of the bill as drafted.

“I don’t want to prevent a doctor from being able to work in multiple areas,” said Rep. Barry Hovis, R-Whitewater, “because sometimes in a very rural area there isn’t enough business to maintain a practice. “

Rep. Greg Sharpe, R-Ewing, expressed concern that the current wording of the bill presents many gray areas for providers located on the outskirts of the state.

“You’re going to have a lot of out-of-state providers looking at this,” Sharpe said. “I mean, it’s not a huge amount of money, but it might be something to watch.”

Attorneys from the Missouri Association of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons, the Missouri Academy of Family Physicians, and the Missouri State Medical Association testified in support of the bill.

Shantel Dooling of the Missouri State Medical Association pointed out that the tax credit program outlined in the bill would expire in six years.

“If we find that doesn’t attract more doctors or health care workers to rural areas, there’s a sunset where that wouldn’t just be an ongoing thing and would have to come back to the legislation to get on with it.” stop,” Dooling said.

No witnesses testified against the bill.

A companion bill, HB 1630, has already passed the committee. This bill would create a grant program for doctors who commit to serving a rural community for five years. Grants would be provided by the Department of Health and Senior Services.

The work of the Missouri News Network is written by students and editors of the Missouri School of Journalism for publication by member newspapers of the Missouri Press Association.

Click on the links below in our digital edition to read the full bill:

• HB 2133: Rural Primary Care Physician Tax Credit

https://bit.ly/3oHmHuW

Sponsor: Rep. Herman Morse

• HB 1630: Rural Primary Care Physician Grant Program

https://bit.ly/3GJ2T0m

Sponsor: Rep. Herman Morse

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