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144.1501 Health professional education loan forgiveness program.

Subdivision 1. Definitions. (a) For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply.

(b) "Designated rural area" means:

(1) an area in Minnesota outside the counties of Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington, excluding the cities of Duluth, Mankato, Moorhead, Rochester, and St. Cloud; or

(2) a municipal corporation, as defined under section 471.634, that is physically located, in whole or in part, in an area defined as a designated rural area under clause (1).

(c) "Emergency circumstances" means those conditions that make it impossible for the participant to fulfill the service commitment, including death, total and permanent disability, or temporary disability lasting more than two years.

(d) "Medical resident" means an individual participating in a medical residency in family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, or psychiatry.

(e) "Midlevel practitioner" means a nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife, nurse anesthetist, advanced clinical nurse specialist, or physician assistant.

(f) "Nurse" means an individual who has completed training and received all licensing or certification necessary to perform duties as a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse.

(g) "Nurse-midwife" means a registered nurse who has graduated from a program of study designed to prepare registered nurses for advanced practice as nurse-midwives.

(h) "Nurse practitioner" means a registered nurse who has graduated from a program of study designed to prepare registered nurses for advanced practice as nurse practitioners.

(i) "Physician" means an individual who is licensed to practice medicine in the areas of family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, or psychiatry.

(j) "Physician assistant" means a person registered under chapter 147A.

(k) "Qualified educational loan" means a government, commercial, or foundation loan for actual costs paid for tuition, reasonable education expenses, and reasonable living expenses related to the graduate or undergraduate education of a health care professional.

(l) "Underserved urban community" means a Minnesota urban area or population included in the list of designated primary medical care health professional shortage areas (HPSAs), medically underserved areas (MUAs), or medically underserved populations (MUPs) maintained and updated by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

Subd. 2. Creation of account. A health professional education loan forgiveness program account is established. The commissioner of health shall use money from the account to establish a loan forgiveness program for medical residents agreeing to practice in designated rural areas or underserved urban communities, for midlevel practitioners agreeing to practice in designated rural areas, and for nurses who agree to practice in a Minnesota nursing home or intermediate care facility for persons with mental retardation or related conditions. Appropriations made to the account do not cancel and are available until expended, except that at the end of each biennium, any remaining balance in the account that is not committed by contract and not needed to fulfill existing commitments shall cancel to the fund.

Subd. 3. Eligibility. (a) To be eligible to participate in the loan forgiveness program, an individual must:

(1) be a medical resident or be enrolled in a midlevel practitioner, registered nurse, or a licensed practical nurse training program; and

(2) submit an application to the commissioner of health.

(b) An applicant selected to participate must sign a contract to agree to serve a minimum three-year full-time service obligation according to subdivision 2, which shall begin no later than March 31 following completion of required training.

Subd. 4. Loan forgiveness. The commissioner of health may select applicants each year for participation in the loan forgiveness program, within the limits of available funding. The commissioner shall distribute available funds for loan forgiveness proportionally among the eligible professions according to the vacancy rate for each profession in the required geographic area or facility type specified in subdivision 2. The commissioner shall allocate funds for physician loan forgiveness so that 75 percent of the funds available are used for rural physician loan forgiveness and 25 percent of the funds available are used for underserved urban communities loan forgiveness. If the commissioner does not receive enough qualified applicants each year to use the entire allocation of funds for urban underserved communities, the remaining funds may be allocated for rural physician loan forgiveness. Applicants are responsible for securing their own qualified educational loans. The commissioner shall select participants based on their suitability for practice serving the required geographic area or facility type specified in subdivision 2, as indicated by experience or training. The commissioner shall give preference to applicants closest to completing their training. For each year that a participant meets the service obligation required under subdivision 3, up to a maximum of four years, the commissioner shall make annual disbursements directly to the participant equivalent to 15 percent of the average educational debt for indebted graduates in their profession in the year closest to the applicant's selection for which information is available, not to exceed the balance of the participant's qualifying educational loans. Before receiving loan repayment disbursements and as requested, the participant must complete and return to the commissioner an affidavit of practice form provided by the commissioner verifying that the participant is practicing as required under subdivisions 2 and 3. The participant must provide the commissioner with verification that the full amount of loan repayment disbursement received by the participant has been applied toward the designated loans. After each disbursement, verification must be received by the commissioner and approved before the next loan repayment disbursement is made. Participants who move their practice remain eligible for loan repayment as long as they practice as required under subdivision 2.

Subd. 5. Penalty for nonfulfillment. If a participant does not fulfill the required minimum commitment of service according to subdivision 3, the commissioner of health shall collect from the participant the total amount paid to the participant under the loan forgiveness program plus interest at a rate established according to section 270.75. The commissioner shall deposit the money collected in the health care access fund to be credited to the health professional education loan forgiveness program account established in subdivision 2. The commissioner shall allow waivers of all or part of the money owed the commissioner as a result of a nonfulfillment penalty if emergency circumstances prevented fulfillment of the minimum service commitment.

Subd. 6. Rules. The commissioner may adopt rules to implement this section.

HIST: 1Sp2003 c 14 art 7 s 33

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Revisor of Statutes