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State Auditor Shad White assesses Mississippi’s rural healthcare scholarship programs

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state auditor shad white
State Auditor Shad White (credit: Mississippi Office of the State Auditor)

From the State Auditor’s Office:

A new report released today by State Auditor Shad White shows two programs meant to address Mississippi’s healthcare shortage are working but need improved policies. Today’s report also shows how these programs—the Mississippi Rural Physicians and Dentists Scholarship Programs—have operated over time and how many providers have been placed in needy areas.

“It’s critical that we ensure the rural areas of our state have enough doctors and dentists to serve our people,” said Auditor White. “The purpose of this report is to help the rural healthcare scholarships improve their operations to maximize every dollar the taxpayers spend on the programs.”

Taxpayers have invested over $33 million into both Rural Scholarship Programs since 2008, and the programs have recently been expanded. The programs have placed at least 119 physicians and 17 dentists in rural areas of our state, though Mississippians need more physicians and dentists today than they did 10 years ago.

The report also identifies improvements to policies and procedures that administrators can make. For instance, administrators

· should tighten the definition of “rural” to guarantee that doctors and dentists are only working in high-need locations outside of a metro area,

· should more closely monitor when a doctor or dentist fails to keep their end of the bargain by not working in a rural area, and

· should be more careful calculating the money scholarship recipients need to repay if they fail to serve in a rural area, as some required repayments were miscalculated.

“With some small improvements, Mississippi can make its healthcare scholarships even stronger,” said White. “They are helping to meet a critical need in our state and keeping talented doctors and dentists here at home instead of moving to another state.”

The full report can be found online here.

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