A bill aimed at keeping newly licensed doctors in Mississippi passed the House. As MPB's Desare Frazier reports there is some concern about how far the bill goes.
According to the Office of Mississippi Physician Workforce, in 2016, there were just over 5,500 doctors practicing in the state. Next door, in Alabama there were twice that number. House Republican Jeff Smith of Columbus says he knows of three Mississippi counties without one physician. Smith supports House Bill 1670. It would allow newly licensed doctors to work in underserved areas without paying income tax for ten years.
"It's to recruit the young ones out of the University Medical Center or William Carey and try to get those people to realize that rural Mississippi is dying for doctors and I don't mean that as a pun," said Smith.
The measure is called the Mississippi Critical Physician Shortage Incentive Act. Smith says it requires doctors live in a county that has one physician for every 2,500 people. The bill was amended to include physician assistants and advanced registered nurses. Dr. Frank Perkins is a Psychiatry Resident at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He's excited about the incentive program. But Perkins says he prefers the original bill without the amendment because doctors have specialized training that is sorely needed in underserved communities.
"It's absolutely great to have additional providers like nurse practitioners and physicians assistants but we like to focus on a physician led team. Physicians that know the communities, live in the communities and are able to better address the direct issues that are in those communities," said Perkins.
The bill now goes to the Senate for review.