What is Shortage Designation?

There are geographic areas, populations, and facilities in the United States 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.

These areas, populations, and facilities are eligible to receive certain federal resources.

Modernization Project

We are modernizing the shortage designation process with automated procedures and standardized data sets. Join an upcoming training webinar or watch past webinar recordings.

How does our work combat health workforce shortages?

Due to limited federal resources, 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.

How could you benefit from working in shortage areas?

Primary care medical, dental, and mental and behavioral health providers:

If you work at qualifying sites in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs), you can apply to the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program (LRP).

We assist you with your student loans while you serve in communities in need.

Nurses who work in a designated HPSA:

Health care providers working in shortage designations:

If your state participates in the State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP), you may be eligible for assistance in repaying qualifying educational loans.

Contact your state’s PCO to see if your state participates in SLRP.

How can you access shortage data?

Date Last Reviewed:  July 2019


Contact Us

Shortage designation questions?
Email us, or call 301-594-5168

Shortage Designation Modernization Project questions?
Email us

NHSC or Nurse Corps questions?
Email us or call 1-800-221-9393

CMS Bonus Payment questions?
Contact your Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC)

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