Demand for Primary Care Soaring: Health Service Corps Meeting Needs of Colorado’s Underserved

October 9, 2013


Jon Pushkin, Pushkin PR
(303) 733-3441
(303) 725-5031 (mobile)
[email protected]

Demand for Primary Care Soaring: Health Service Corps Meeting Needs of Colorado’s Underserved
Loan repayment programs help providers see patients in safety-net programs

DENVER― As more people gain access to health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, the  demand for primary health care workers is expected to increase. The need is especially acute in safety net programs that provide health care in underserved communities. For example, one in 10 people in Colorado depend on a Community Health Center for primary care and the safety net  collectively cares for over one million people. That number is expected to grow dramatically in 2014 when the state’s Medicaid program expands and more people enter the health care system.

“We need doctors to serve in Community Health Centers,” said Donald Moore, CEO at Pueblo Community Health Center. “Every doctor we hire allows us to provide another 1,500 patients with access to care.”

The Health Service Corps program is helping to meet this need by providing loan repayment assistance to providers who agree to work in underserved communities. Some 76 percent of the patients seen by participants in the Colorado Health Service Corps program are enrolled in safety net-supported programs such as Medicare, Medicaid or Child Health Plan Plus, according to organizers of the 2013 Corps Community Day. On October 11, Corps Community Day will gather health service corps participants and alumni, as well as health care students and physician residents who want to learn about loan repayment programs and mission-driven careers, for an awards ceremony, networking and educational event. The event is a collaboration of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), Colorado Health Service Corps (CHSC), Colorado Rural Health Center (CRHC), Community Association of Mountain/Plains States (CHAMPS), Central Colorado Area Health Education Center (AHEC), and Colorado Community Health Network (CCHN).

The loan repayment programs help students who forego private practice serving predominantly the insured, to care for low-income, underserved populations in Community Health Centers, Rural Health Clinics, Community Mental Health Centers and other safety net organizations.

    • A combined 313 participants of the NHSC and CHSC loan repayment programs currently work in Colorado.
  • Since the programs began, a combined 1,119 primary care professionals have delivered care in Colorado communities.
  • Together, the programs granted $4.5 million in loan repayment funding to Colorado primary care providers in 2012.

“The Health Service Corps has been incredibly successful in helping us attract health care professionals to the safety net,” said Tanah Wagenseller, health center workforce manager for CCHN. “It’s helping students who want to make a difference find a job where they can do that every day.”

About the National and Colorado Health Service Corps

Founded in 1976, the National Health Service Corps was created to provide rural areas with essential health services as country doctors retired. The program has evolved over the years, reflecting trends in provider supply and demand. It has consistently received bipartisan support.

In 2009, recognizing an impending crisis in primary care, the federal government, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, doubled the number of program recipients.

Established in 2009 with bipartisan support, the Colorado Health Service Corps has slightly different requirements than the NHSC, customized for the specific needs of Colorado. The Colorado Health Service Corps is administered by the Primary Care Office at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment with funding from the Colorado Health Foundation, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, the state of Colorado, The Colorado Trust and the Comprecare Foundation.

About Colorado’s Health Care Safety Net

Colorado’s health care safety net is comprised of many players, including Community Health Centers, also known as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs); Federally Certified Rural Health Clinics (RHCs); and Community-Funded Safety Net Clinics (CSNCs.)

The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) landmark study, America’s Health Care Safety Net: Intact but Endangered, defines core safety net providers as those that share two distinguishing characteristics: either by legal mandate or explicitly adopted mission, they offer care to patients regardless of their ability to pay for those services; and a substantial share of their patient mix is uninsured, are Medicaid enrollees or people who have other vulnerability risk factors.


The Colorado Community Health Network (CCHN) is the unified voice for Colorado’s 18 Community Health Centers (CHCs) and their patients. CHCs provide a health care home to more than 600,000 of their community members – one in 10 people in Colorado – from 60 of the state’s 64 counties. Without CHCs, hundreds of thousands of Colorado’s low-income families and individuals would have no regular source of health care. CCHN’s mission is to increase access to high quality health care for people in need in Colorado. For more information about CCHN, please visit For more information about careers at Colorado Community Health Centers, please go to

The Colorado Rural Health Center (CRHC) is an independent, nonprofit, membership-based organization that serves as the State Office of Rural Health for Colorado. CRHC offers programs and services to ensure that rural communities have access to high quality health care services as well recruitment through Colorado Provider Recruitment.

The Colorado Health Service Corps is a public-private partnership that seeks to improve access to health care by repaying the educational loans of health professionals who agree to practice in a shortage area. The program emphasizes long-term retention of health professionals in underserved communities and seeks to increase health equity for all Coloradans.