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Primary Health Care Practitioner Program

Primary Health Care Practitioners (family physicians, pediatricians, internists, obstetricians, and dentists; along with certified nurse midwives, physician assistants, and certified registered nurse practitioners) provide the basis for access to the health care system for most people.

This fundamental role makes it especially important to continually assess and assure both a sufficient supply of primary care practitioners, and an appropriate level of access to primary care, regardless of ability to pay for services.

Act 113 of 1992 established the Primary Health Care Practitioner Program and charged the Pennsylvania Department of Health with the responsibility of developing a comprehensive program to support the supply and distribution of primary care practitioners.

Overview of Programs

Primary Care Practitioner Annual Report 2022 – This report summarizes the performance of the programs in the Primary Care Office for the 2020-21 state fiscal year.

Loan Repayment Program (LRP) - A program that encourages primary care practitioners (including dentists) to practice in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA).

J-1 Visa Waiver Program (J-1) - A program that may waive exchange visitor visa requirements for an international medical graduate completing primary care training in the United States if he/she agrees to practice in a HPSA for a minimum of three years.

National Interest Waiver Program (NIW) - A program for primary care physicians to gain quick access to permanent residency status provided the physician agrees to complete an additional two-year commitment in a HPSA after completion of the J-1 commitment.

National Health ServicesCorps (NHSC) - The NHSC offers two programs in recruitment and retention of practitioners. Learn more about NHSC Students to Service Loan Repayment Program and NHSC Scholarship Program.

Shortage Designations - Health professional shortage designations are developed using Federal criteria that determine whether or not a geographic area, population group, or facility is a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), Medically Underserved Area (MUA), or Medically Underserved Population (MUP). HPSAs may be designated as having a shortage of primary medical care, or dental or mental health providers. They may be urban or rural areas, population groups, or medical or other public facilities.