State Representative Herman Morse, R-Dexter, says Missouri Department of Health information shows 75% of the state’s primary care physicians work in five counties.
“In my area of the state, southeast Missouri, there are counties with no physicians that reside in there or practice in there unless they just come in from out of the county for the day and go home. I just feel like doctors and having access to doctors that you bump into or you don’t mind calling or you might see at church is really important,” he said. “We’ve lost a segment of our rural society when we don’t have doctors.”
He wants to recruit more doctors to live and work in rural Missouri by offering them a tax credit against their state tax liability of up to $15,000 annually for five years.
“The county I live in had multiple doctors, I’m guessing between 15 and 20 doctors, as late as the 1970s,” said Morse. “I remember being told about when I was born, I was born at home way out in the country, in the little town of Essex, Missouri, which now has a little over 500 people. It had two doctors in 1949 and both of them came in the middle of the night to our house to deliver me. You just don’t get that anymore.”
Under his bill, the doctors must practice and live in a county with fewer than 35,000 people.
“From where we live, if we go to a specialist, we have to go to Cape Girardeau, which is 55-60 miles or we have to go to Poplar Bluff which is 30ish. There are virtually no specialists that come to Dexter,” he said. “Southeast Hospital has a facility there and they have a wellness clinic, urgent care, whatever. Our Walmart actually has a semblance of urgent care. They have a nurse and they have the posted rates for what they can do on a sign outside the office and after you check out. If you have to go to a specialist, it’s a half day allocation because you have to leave in time to make sure you’ve got time in case you have problems.”
A Missouri House committee has advanced the bill. It is awaiting a vote by another House committee before it could move to the full House. Since the Legislature is only in session for three more weeks, the bill’s likely best chance of passing would be to add it to a similar bill closer nearing the finish line.
To view House Bill 2133, click here.
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