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Federal Programs and Policies Improving Access to Quality Health Care Services in Underserved Areas

Many locales and certain regions of the country, such as small rural towns, sparsely populated areas, American Indian reservations and Alaska Native villages, and some sections of urban America face shortages of health care providers and other barriers to accessing health care.  There are also national shortages in various health care specialties such as obstetrics and behavioral health.

The Department of Health and Human Services, and other parts of the federal government, operate a number of programs designed to improve access to health care services in these areas such as federally-funded health centers, which by statute must be located in medically underserved areas, scholarship and loan repayment programs intended to incentivize practice in shortage areas, and broadband infrastructure development funding programs.  The Indian Health Service is responsible for providing and financing health services for American Indians and Alaska Natives, many of whom live in some of the most remote regions of the country.  In recent years, innovations in telehealth and other communication-based technologies, as well as various technology-enabled hub-and-spoke models have also held promise for expanding treatment capacity in underserved areas to more conveniently deliver the right care, in the right place, at the right time.  ASPE reports on telehealth and related technologies can be found at Advances in Telehealth.

ASPE research on federal programs and policies designed to improve access to health care services in underserved areas is available on this landing page.  In the above tabs, there are links to reports and briefs that ASPE has produced on topics related to expanding the capacity of the healthcare workforce to meet the nation’s health care needs through technology, training, and incentive programs.