(1) To encourage qualified medical professionals to practice in underserved locations where there are shortages of such personnel, the Legislature establishes the Florida Health Services Corps.
(2) As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Department” means the Department of Health.
(b) “Florida Health Services Corps” means a program authorized by this section which:
1. Offers scholarships to allopathic, osteopathic, chiropractic, podiatric, dental, physician assistant, and nursing students, and loan repayment assistance and travel and relocation expenses to allopathic and osteopathic residents and physicians, chiropractic physicians, podiatric physicians, nurse practitioners, dentists, and physician assistants, in return for service in a public health care program or in a medically underserved area.
2. Offers membership on a voluntary basis to physicians and other health care personnel who provide uncompensated care.
(c) “Medically underserved area” means:
1. A geographic area, a special population, or a facility that has a shortage of health professionals as defined by federal regulations;
2. A county health department, community health center, or migrant health center; or
3. A geographic area or facility designated by rule by the department that has a shortage of health care practitioners who serve Medicaid and other low-income patients.
(d) “Medically indigent person” means a person who lacks public or private health insurance, is unable to pay for care, and is a member of a family with an income at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level.
(e) “Public health program” means a county health department, a children’s medical services program, a federally funded community health center, a federally funded migrant health center, or other publicly funded or nonprofit health care program designated by the department.
(f) “Primary care” means family and general practice, general pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, and general internal medicine by primary care physicians licensed under chapters 458, 459, 460, and 461.
(3) The Florida Health Services Corps shall be developed by the department in cooperation with the programs in the area health education center network as defined in s. 381.0402 and the state’s health care education and training institutions. The State Health Officer shall be the director of the Florida Health Services Corps.
(4) Corps members shall be supervised by the State Health Officer, or his or her physician designee, for the purpose of practice guidelines, continuing education, and other matters pertaining to professional conduct.
(5) The department may award scholarships to students studying medicine, osteopathic medicine, chiropractic medicine, podiatric, nursing, or dentistry.
(a) The program shall require a student who receives a scholarship to accept an assignment in a public health care program or work in a specific community located in a medically underserved area upon completion of primary care training. The department shall determine assignments. If a practitioner is assigned to a medically underserved area, the practitioner must treat Medicaid patients and other patients with low incomes.
(b) An eligible student must be pursuing a full-time course of study in:
1. Allopathic or osteopathic medicine, including physician assistants;
3. Podiatric medicine;
4. Nursing, including registered nurses, nurse midwives, and other nurse practitioners; or
5. Chiropractic medicine.
(c) In selecting students to participate in the scholarship program, priority shall be given to students who indicate a desire to practice a primary care specialty in a medically underserved area after their obligation is completed and who indicate an intent to practice medical specialties for which the department has a need.
(d) Scholarship assistance shall consist of reimbursement for tuition and other educational costs such as books, supplies, equipment, transportation, and monthly living expense stipends. The department shall pay the same amount for living expense stipends as is paid by the National Health Services Corps. Each monthly living expense stipend shall be for a 12-month period beginning with the first month of each school year in which the student is a participant. The department may reimburse a participant for books, supplies, and equipment based on average costs incurred by participants for these items. The department shall prescribe, by rule, eligible expenses for reimbursement and allowable amounts.
(e) For an allopathic or osteopathic medical student, enrollment in the corps may begin in the second year of medical school or in any year thereafter. For a nursing student or other student, enrollment may occur in any year.
(f) For a student who receives scholarship assistance, participation in the corps after completion of training shall be 1 year for each school year of scholarship assistance, up to a maximum of 3 years. The period of obligated service shall begin when the participant is assigned by the department to a public health program or to a medically underserved area.
(6) The department may provide loan repayment assistance and travel and relocation reimbursement to allopathic and osteopathic medical residents with primary care specialties during their last 2 years of residency training or upon completion of residency training, and to physician assistants and nurse practitioners with primary care specialties, in return for an agreement to serve a minimum of 2 years in the Florida Health Services Corps. During the period of service, the maximum amount of annual financial payments shall not be greater than the annual total of loan repayment assistance and tax subsidies authorized by the National Health Services Corps loan repayment program.
(7) The financial penalty for noncompliance with participation requirements for persons who have received financial payments under subsection (5) or subsection (6) shall be determined in the same manner as in the National Health Services Corps scholarship program. In addition, noncompliance with participation requirements shall also result in ineligibility for professional licensure or renewal of licensure under chapter 458, chapter 459, chapter 460, part I of chapter 464, chapter 465, or chapter 466. For a participant who is unable to participate for reasons of disability, the penalty is the actual amount of financial assistance provided to the participant. Financial penalties shall be deposited in the Florida Health Services Corps Trust Fund and shall be used to provide additional scholarship and financial assistance.
(8) Membership in the corps may be extended to any licensed physician or other health care practitioner who provides uncompensated care to medically indigent persons referred by the department. Participation in the corps is voluntary and subject to the supervision of the department for the purpose of practice guidelines, continuing education, and other matters pertaining to professional conduct.
(9) Persons who receive loan repayment assistance under s. 1009.65 shall be members of the Florida Health Services Corps.
(10) Corps members shall be enrolled in Medicaid and accept all patients referred by the department pursuant to an agreement with the department.
(11) A Florida Health Services Corps member is an agent of the state under s. 768.28(9) while providing uncompensated services to medically indigent persons who are referred by the department.
(12) Funds appropriated under this section shall be deposited in the Florida Health Services Corps Trust Fund, which shall be administered by the department. The department may use funds appropriated for the Florida Health Services Corps as matching funds for federal service-obligation scholarship programs for health care practitioners, such as the Demonstration Grants to States for Community Scholarship Grants program. If funds appropriated under this section are used as matching funds, federal criteria shall be followed whenever there is a conflict between provisions in this section and federal requirements.
(13) The department shall adopt rules to implement the Florida Health Services Corps. The rules must also quantify penalties for noncompliance.