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April 25, 2017

Aroostook lawmaker proposes incentives for rural doctors and dentists

State Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, presented a bill Monday aimed at recruiting and retaining primary health care providers and dentists in rural and medically under-served regions of Maine.

LD 1287, "An Act To Strengthen Efforts To Recruit and Retain Primary Care Professionals and Dentists in Rural and Under-served Areas of the State" — would extend an existing income tax credit for eligible dentists who practice in under-served areas to 2026. Current law would have the credit expire in 2020.

It would also provide the credit to more primary care professionals, such as physicians, nurse practitioners and physician's assistants who practice in under-served areas. Jackson's bill would provide the credit to 10 providers in rural and under-served communities, rather than the five currently allowed by the law.

"Currently, many of our community health centers around the state are facing a significant challenge of recruiting a physician or dentist to practice in rural, underserved areas," Jackson said in a news release. "For some locations, it takes as long as two years to bring on a physician or dentist. We must do something to fix this problem. All Mainers need access to health care, no matter where they live."

Family nurse practitioner Nikki Larrabee shared her personal experience of participating in the credit program. A native of Benedicta, Larrabee left Maine and returned to work at Katahdin Valley Health Center in Patten when she received the credit to practice in the area.

"I was fortunate to be awarded one of those limited slots, but because there are so few of them available, several of my colleagues across the state have been unsuccessful in getting approved for the program," Larrabee said in the news release. "Being able to receive these tax credits has allowed me to stay in the state and rural community that I love, and I urge you to extend and expand the program. Access to healthcare for your fellow Mainers depends on it, as does the economy of rural Maine."

A work session on the bill will be scheduled in the coming weeks.

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