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U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Jack Reed (R.I.) announced the bipartisan Ensuring Children's Access to Specialty Care Act.

The legislation would expand the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program (NHSCLRP) to include physicians trained in pediatric subspecialties, such as child and adolescent psychiatrists.

“The high cost of pursuing a career in a pediatric subspecialty has led to a shortage of providers who can meet children’s health care needs,” said Blunt. “This bipartisan bill will expand children’s access to care by making it more affordable to pursue a career in a pediatric subspecialty. I’ll continue supporting efforts to expand children’s access to quality, affordable care.”

“Every child should have access to the pediatric health services they need, especially kids with a physical, mental, or behavioral health condition that requires specialty care,” said Reed. “This bipartisan bill would increase access to specialty care for children and improve mental health parity for kids served by the National Health Service Corps program. Without adding any extra costs, it fixes a loophole and allows licensed pediatric subspecialists working in underserved areas to apply for student loan repayments through the NHSCLRP.”

Medical residents who specialize in pediatric medicine require additional training, often resulting in increased student loan debt. The added financial burden, combined with a retiring pediatric subspecialty workforce, has led to a shortage of pediatric medical and surgical subspecialists, and child and adolescent psychiatrists. As a result, families are experiencing longer wait times and traveling longer distances for children who require specialized care, which can result in delayed diagnosis and treatment, and significantly poorer health outcomes.

The Ensuring Children's Access to Specialty Care Act will help address shortages and improve access by modifying the NHSCLRP to allow pediatric subspecialists working in underserved areas to apply for student loan repayments through the program. Currently, these providers are effectively ineligible for the program because they are completing their fellowships during the two-year window in which they would otherwise be able to apply.

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