GAO Finds NHSC Funding Goes to Areas of Greatest Need

June 7, 2021

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan organization that reports to Congress on how Federal funding is spent, recently released a report on the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) program’s 2020 funding cycle. The NHSC program is administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and includes funding opportunities for primary care providers in exchange for service at a clinical setting located in a federally-designated health professional shortage area (HPSA). These clinical settings must also be approved by HRSA for program participation. NHSC sites are eligible to receive numerous resources that help recruit and retain qualified primary care providers, including physicians, nurses, and substance use disorder specialists.

The report found that in 2020, 14,000 primary care providers participated in an NHSC program and that physicians, nurse practitioners, and licensed clinical social workers were the provider types that received the largest number of awards.

NHSC sites are scored based on the degree of need for primary care providers, and the NHSC program was developed to incentivize awardees to serve at sites with the greatest need. The GAO also reported that 40% of the applicants who did not receive funding because their designated NHSC site’s degree of need was not high enough, nonetheless provided care at sites in high need for primary care providers and would have been considered if more funding was available.