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Harkin Applauds Creation of Committee to Focus on Criteria for Medically Underserved Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, applauded the appointment of a committee to review and update the criteria used to define Medically Underserved Populations (MUPs) and Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs).  The formation of the committee was announced today by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, and was established by the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform bill.

“The formation of this committee demonstrates a commitment to America’s rural areas, which have coped with shortages of health care professionals and facilities for decades,” Senator Harkin said.  “The committee will examine the current methods used for identifying underserved areas, and propose revisions where they feel they are needed.  And it will do so in a transparent manner.  Committee meetings, which are set to begin later this year, will be open to the public.”

The committee is comprised of 24 members who are key stakeholders representing programs that are most affected by these designations.  They include:

•    Community Health Centers
•    Rural health clinics and health care practitioners
•    Special populations with unique health care needs
•    Technical experts in health care access and statistical methods

A variety of federal and state programs use these designations to target resources to areas of need.  For example, an area must have a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) designation to be eligible to apply for the placement of National Health Service Corps providers, and the Medically Underserved Population (MUP) designation is used as a basis for awarding grants to Community Health Centers which are located in underserved communities.  There is also a bonus payment to physicians under Medicare for services provided in HPSAs.

Meeting schedules for the committee will be published in the Federal Register with a target date for a draft final proposal in July 2011.

For more information and a list of committee members appointed please visit