(a) For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply.
(b) "Dentist" means an individual who is licensed to practice dentistry.
(c) "Designated rural area" means an area defined as a small rural area or isolated rural area according to the four category classifications of the Rural Urban Commuting Area system developed for the United States Health Resources and Services Administration.
(d) "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.
(e) "Medical resident" means an individual participating in a medical residency in family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, or psychiatry.
(f) "Midlevel practitioner" means a nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife, nurse anesthetist, advanced clinical nurse specialist, or physician assistant.
(g) "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.
(h) "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.
(i) "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.
(j) "Pharmacist" means an individual with a valid license issued under chapter 151.
(k) "Physician" means an individual who is licensed to practice medicine in the areas of family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, or psychiatry.
(l) "Physician assistant" means a person licensed under chapter 147A.
(m) "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.
(n) "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.
(a) 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:
(1) for medical residents agreeing to practice in designated rural areas or underserved urban communities or specializing in the area of pediatric psychiatry;
(2) for midlevel practitioners agreeing to practice in designated rural areas or to teach at least 12 credit hours, or 720 hours per year in the nursing field in a postsecondary program at the undergraduate level or the equivalent at the graduate level;
(3) for nurses who agree to practice in a Minnesota nursing home or intermediate care facility for persons with developmental disability or to teach at least 12 credit hours, or 720 hours per year in the nursing field in a postsecondary program at the undergraduate level or the equivalent at the graduate level;
(4) for other health care technicians agreeing to teach at least 12 credit hours, or 720 hours per year in their designated field in a postsecondary program at the undergraduate level or the equivalent at the graduate level. The commissioner, in consultation with the Healthcare Education-Industry Partnership, shall determine the health care fields where the need is the greatest, including, but not limited to, respiratory therapy, clinical laboratory technology, radiologic technology, and surgical technology;
(5) for pharmacists who agree to practice in designated rural areas; and
(6) for dentists agreeing to deliver at least 25 percent of the dentist's yearly patient encounters to state public program enrollees or patients receiving sliding fee schedule discounts through a formal sliding fee schedule meeting the standards established by the United States Department of Health and Human Services under Code of Federal Regulations, title 42, section 51, chapter 303.
(b) 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.
(a) To be eligible to participate in the loan forgiveness program, an individual must:
(1) be a medical or dental resident, a licensed pharmacist or be enrolled in a dentist, midlevel practitioner, registered nurse, or a licensed practical nurse training program; and
(2) submit an application to the commissioner of health. If fewer applications are submitted by dental students or residents than there are dentist participant slots available, the commissioner may consider applications submitted by dental program graduates who are licensed dentists.
(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.
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, facility type, teaching area, patient group, or specialty 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 and pediatric psychiatry loan forgiveness. If the commissioner does not receive enough qualified applicants each year to use the entire allocation of funds for any eligible profession, the remaining funds may be allocated proportionally among the other eligible professions according to the vacancy rate for each profession in the required geographic area, patient group, or facility type specified in subdivision 2. 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 a confirmation 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.
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 270C.40. 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.
The commissioner may adopt rules to implement this section.