WHAT IS A MEDICALLY UNDERSERVED AREA?
Designated by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Medically Underserved Areas (MUP) and Medically Underserved Populations (MUP) represent geographic areas and populations with a lack of access to primary care services. An MUA may include a whole county, a group of counties, specific census tracts, or county or civil divisions. An MUP reflects a specific population subset within a geographic area. The population may face economic, cultural, or language barriers to care. In some instances when unusual circumstances prevent access to primary care, a population may be classified as an Exceptional Medically Underserved Population.
MEDICALLY UNDERSERVED AREAS AND POPULATIONS WITHIN THE U.S.
PROGRAMS BENEFITTING MEDICALLY UNDERSERVED AREAS
An MUA or MUP designation can be used to determine eligibility for specific state or federal programs that are intended to increase access to care. At the organizational level, designation impacts eligibility for the federal Health Center Program and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) Rural Health Clinic Program.
At the physician level, assistance in recruiting and retaining providers is available when the patient population served is classified as an MUA or MUP. J-1 Visa waivers issued by states or the federal government can enable facilities located within MUAs or serving MUPs to recruit foreign medical graduates to fill vacant positions. Additionally, physicians who work within medically underserved communities may be eligible for certain federal or state loan repayment programs like National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program.
RULES AND REGULATIONS RELATED TO MEDICALLY UNDERSERVED AREAS
Payments made to an investor (i.e., a return-on-investment or interest payment) from an entity within a medically underserved area may fall under the investment interests safe harbor if specific standards are met.
Stark Law Exceptions
Exceptions related to obstetrical malpractice insurance subsidies and retention payments to physicians reference medically underserved area requirements.
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