To identify areas facing shortages of health care providers, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) relies on its health professional shortage area (HPSA) designation system. HHS designates geographic, population-group, and facility HPSAs. HHS also gives each HPSA a score to rank its need for providers relative to other HPSAs. The Health Care Safety Net Amendments of 2002 required GAO to report on the HPSA designation system. GAO reviewed (1) the number and location of HPSAs and federal programs that use HPSA designations to allocate resources or provide benefits, (2) available research on HPSA designation criteria and methodology, and (3) the impact of a 2002 provision that automatically designates federally qualified health centers and certain rural health clinics as facility HPSAs. GAO obtained and analyzed HHS's data on primary care HPSA designations as of September 2005 and January 2006 and identified reports on HPSA criteria and methodology through a literature search of peer-reviewed journals and other reports published since 1995.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Health and Human Services||The Secretary of Health and Human Services should publish a list of designated HPSAs in the Federal Register or otherwise remove, through Federal Register notification, the HPSA designations for those HPSAs that no longer meet the criteria or have not provided updated data in support of their designations.|
|Department of Health and Human Services||The Secretary of Health and Human Services should complete and publish HHS's proposal to revise the HPSA designation system and address the shortcomings that have been identified in the current methodology for designating HPSAs.|