LAWTON, OK (TNN) - A bill has passed through the Oklahoma House that would provide tax incentives to doctors who choose to practice in rural areas, which are communities with a population of less than 25-thousand.
If House Bill 2511 becomes law, it would allow doctors to forego paying state income tax up to 25,000 dollars. According to the Federal Health Resources and Services Administration, all but one of Oklahoma’s 77 counties deals with inadequate access to health care providers.
“Rural medicine is very much needed in Oklahoma, and hopefully the tax incentive will help more people get into the rural areas," said Dr. Leal.
Dr. Christie Leal at Elgin Community Health Center has been working in rural areas for most of her career, and says she regularly sees patients who get frustrated with her because the facility she works at doesn't have the proper equipment or resources.
“We aren’t able to do imaging here which is a hardship for them, we can’t do x-rays, MRIs. Since we don’t have that equipment, they have to go to Lawton or Oklahoma City, Duncan and have that test done so they can be treated appropriately,” said Dr. Leal.
Dr. Aryan Kadivar from Kadivar Family Medicine says that many times people travel in from further away expecting his office to solve their health problem.
“They feel as though we are first responders,” he said.
Kadivar, like Leal said when people come in with problems like allergic reactions or chest pain, or they need an EpiPen they might be able to help, but they really aren’t able to solve the problem entirely.
“We have all those measures here, but a lot of the times when something is as acute as that, people should most likely go to the ER if they have the means to get there in a reasonable amount of time,” said Dr. Kadivar.
“I’m wanting to bring different types of allied health care providers from additional home health, hospice or even other providers that would provide somewhat of a medical community," said Kadivar.
“The nearest ambulance is Apache, and that can take 15 to 30 minutes depending on where they are located," said Dr. Leal.
Dr. Kadivar said he understands the tough times rural communities face dealing with proper health care, and his goal is to help solve it, at least for the people in and around Elgin.
“I'm wanting to bring different types of allied health care providers from additional home health, hospice or even other providers that would provide somewhat of a medical community," said Kadivar.
The authors of this bill said rural doctors would be eligible for the tax incentive annually for up to five years.
They say it would help doctors open up practices, pay off student loans. The tax incentive will also only be offered to doctors who went to Medical School in Oklahoma with hopes of keeping them in the state.
House Bill 2511 passed 98-2 in the house, and is awaiting a vote in the Oklahoma Senate