Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who fail to fulfill the requirements of state or federal scholarships would be stripped of their licenses to practice in Maryland under two bills introduced in the House of Delegates.
The bills, introduced separately by Del. Martin G. Madden, R-Howard, and Del. Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Baltimore County, are awaiting action by the House Environmental Matters Committee.
They would accomplish essentially the same thing: They authorize state licensing boards to act against medical professionals who fail to honor the obligations of scholarships that fund their education in exchange for an agreement to practice in areas with inadequate health care.
Federal prosecutors have filed civil charges against eight Maryland doctors they say owe $3.1 million for breaching agreements with the National Health Service Corps.
"In my opinion, any doctor who doesn't have the moral integrity to fulfill a scholarship we've given them isn't qualified to practice," Mr. Madden said. "If all 50 states did this, we wouldn't have that problem."
He said he had no sympathy for doctors who default on loans, because their earnings far exceed the average American's salary.
Nationwide, NHSC officials say, about 8 percent of recipients of those scholarships have defaulted on their agreements. The awards provide up to $35,000 a year for tuition and other expenses to students seeking careers as doctors, dentists, nurses and physician's assistants.
NHSC says the scholarships were developed to address a shortage of 4,400 medical professionals needed to serve 13 million Americans lacking access to primary health care.
It awarded 439 scholarships last year.
Mr. LaMotte's bill would permit the State Board of Physician Quality Assurance, the State Board of Dental Examiners and the State Board of Nursing to revoke licenses of anyone who defaults on an NHSC scholarship or any other federal or state award program.