What is Shortage Designation?

Throughout the U.S., there are geographic areas, populations, and facilities with too few primary care, dental and mental health providers and services. We work with state partners to determine which of these should be “shortage designations,” and are therefore eligible to receive certain federal resources. 

How Does Our Work Combat Shortages?

We have limited federal resources available to combat health workforce shortages. Shortage designations help us prioritize and focus our resources on the areas of highest need. 

Scholarship and Loan Repayment Programs

Through the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), and other scholarship and loan repayment programs, we increase access to primary care, dental, mental, and behavioral health services. We do this by allowing communities in need to recruit and retain providers using financial incentives. Some designations also help communities recruit foreign physicians through a waiver of certain immigration rules.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

CMS provides millions of dollars annually in bonus payments to providers for services given in certain types of shortage designations. 

Rural Health Clinics (RHCs)

These shortage designations allow certain clinics in rural areas to be certified by CMS as Rural Health Clinics (RHCs), providing enhanced reimbursement. These enhanced payments help to make RHCs economically sustainable. 

How Can You Apply for a Shortage Designation?

Contact your State Primary Care Office (PCO). Federal Project Officers (POs) work together with state PCOs to assist organizations—state, tribal, or U.S. territory-based—in navigating the shortage designation process.

What are the Benefits of Working in Shortage Areas?

Primary care medical, dental, and mental and behavioral health providers at qualifying sites in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) can apply for assistance in repaying their student loans while serving in communities in need through the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program (LRP)

Nurses working in designated HPSAs have access to two loan repayment programs. Primary care nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and psychiatric nurse specialists are eligible to apply to the NHSC Loan Repayment Program. Registered nurses, including nurse practitioners, are eligible to apply to the NURSE Corps Loan Repayment Program.

Health care providers working in shortage designations in states with a State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) may also be eligible for assistance in repaying qualifying educational loans. Providers can contact their state’s PCO to see if their state participates in SLRP.

Is Data Available on Shortage and Medically Underserved Areas?

HPSA statistics, along with relevant information on health care programs and the people they serve can be found in the HRSA Data Warehouse

New and updated HPSAs and Medically Underserved Areas/Populations (MUA/Ps) are accessible through the HPSA Find and MUA/P Find tools within the HRSA Data Warehouse.

Date Last Reviewed:  October 2016

Contact Us

Shortage designation questions?

Email us, or call 301-594-5168