For the record, I'm a loyal supporter of community health centers that offer treatment to any and everyone, whether they can afford it or not.

That said, how are these health centers going to lure good doctors?

The answer is offer to fully pay doctors' student loans to entice them to work for community health/mental health centers.

I'm glad to see our state's Medicaid program will spend about $4.5 million of loan repayment efforts this year to encourage new doctors to work in community settings. While we're at it, use the same program to expand repaying portion of loans for physician assistants, nurses and primary care health workers, too.

Assume this doctor could have earned just $50,000 annually, and the typical medical school candidate is smart and successful enough to earn considerably more. Add in the time and cost it takes to pay off medical school debt, and the 30 years it takes to repay at 7.5 percent interest. You're looking at a total cost of about $419,738.

Moreover, primary care physicians--those who go into pediatrics, family and internal medicine--earn barely more than the amount they accumulated in medical school debt, usually between $173,000 and $185,000, according to the study that looked at data from George Washington University's School of Public Health and the American Association of Medical Colleges.

I like the idea that MassHealth is offering to pay doctors' student loans in exchange for encouraging them to bring their passion and enthusiasm to our local community health centers. And if you're wondering where the money will come from, look no further than the $1.8 billion in federal funds to restructure our MassHealth system.

An investment like this will give good access to patients where they need it, in their communities, rather than over crowding the emergency rooms. This is a way of attracting competent doctors to serve our local communities.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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