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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
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HPSA Designations
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Primary Medical Care HPSA Designation Criteria

Part I -- Geographic Areas

A. Criteria.

A geographic area will be designated as having a shortage of primary medical care professionals if the following three criteria are met:

1. The area is a rational area for the delivery of primary medical care services.

2. One of the following conditions prevails within the area:

(a) The area has a population to full-time-equivalent primary care physician ratio of at least 3,500:1.

(b) The area has a population to full-time-equivalent primary care physician ratio of less than 3,500:1 but greater than 3,000:1 and has unusually high needs for primary care services or insufficient capacity of existing primary care providers.

3. Primary medical care professionals in contiguous areas are overutilized, excessively distant, or inaccessible to the population of the area under consideration.

B. Methodology.

In determining whether an area meets the criteria established by paragraph A of this part, the following methodology will be used:

1. Rational Areas for the Delivery of Primary Medical Care Services.

(a) The following areas will be considered rational areas for the delivery of primary medical care services:

(i) A county, or a group of contiguous counties whose population centers are within 30 minutes travel time of each other.

(ii) A portion of a county, or an area made up of portions of more than one county, whose population, because of topography, market or transportation patterns, distinctive population characteristics or other factors, has limited access to contiguous area resources, as measured generally by a travel time greater than 30 minutes to such resources.

(iii) Established neighborhoods and communities within metropolitan areas which display a strong self-identity (as indicated by a homogeneous socioeconomic or demographic structure and/or a tradition of interaction or interdependency), have limited interaction with contiguous areas, and which, in general, have a minimum population of 20,000.

(b) The following distances will be used as guidelines in determining distances corresponding to 30 minutes travel time:

(i) Under normal conditions with primary roads available: 20 miles.

(ii) In mountainous terrain or in areas with only secondary roads available: 15 miles.

(iii) In flat terrain or in areas connected by interstate highways: 25 miles.

Within inner portions of metropolitan areas, information on the public transportation system will be used to determine the distance corresponding to 30 minutes travel time.

2. Population Count.

The population count used will be the total permanent resident civilian population of the area, excluding inmates of institutions with the following adjustments, where appropriate:

(a) The effect of transient populations on the need of an area for primary care professional(s) will be taken into account as follows:

(i) Seasonal residents, i.e., those who maintain a residence in the area but inhabit it for only 2 to 8 months per year, may be included but must be weighted in proportion to the fraction of the year they are present in the area.

(ii) Other tourists (non-resident) may be included in an area's population but only with a weight of 0.25, using the following formula: Effective tourist contribution to population = 0.25 x (fraction of year tourists are present in area) x (average daily number of tourists during portion of year that tourists are present).

(iii) Migratory workers and their families may be included in an area's population, using the following formula: Effective migrant contribution to population = (fraction of year migrants are present in area) x (average daily number of migrants during portion of year that migrants are present).

3. Counting of Primary Care Practitioners.

(a) All non-Federal doctors of medicine (M.D.) and doctors of osteopathy (D.O.) providing direct patient care who practice principally in one of the four primary care specialities -- general or family practice, general internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology -- will be counted. Those physicians engaged solely in administration, research, and teaching will be excluded. Adjustments for the following factors will be made in computing the number of full-time-equivalent (FTE) primary care physicians:

(i) Interns and residents will be counted as 0.1 full-time equivalent (FTE) physicians.

(ii) Graduates of foreign medical schools who are not citizens or lawful permanent residents of the United States will be excluded from physician counts.

(iii) Those graduates of foreign medical schools who are citizens or lawful permanent residents of the United States, but do not have unrestricted licenses to practice medicine, will be counted as 0.5 FTE physicians.

(b) Practitioners who are semi-retired, who operate a reduced practice due to infirmity or other limiting conditions, or who provide patient care services to the residents of the area only on a part-time basis will be discounted through the use of full-time equivalency figures. A 40-hour work week will be used as the standard for determining full-time equivalents in these cases. For practitioners working less than a 40-hour week, every four (4) hours (or 1/2 day) spent providing patient care, in either ambulatory or inpatient settings, will be counted as 0.1 FTE (with numbers obtained for FTE's rounded to the nearest 0.1 FTE), and each physician providing patient care 40 or more hours a week will be counted as 1.0 FTE physician. (For cases where data are available only for the number of hours providing patient care in office settings, equivalencies will be provided in guidelines.)

(c) In some cases, physicians located within an area may not be accessible to the population of the area under consideration. Allowances for physicians with restricted practices can be made, on a case-by-case basis. However, where only a portion of the population of the area cannot access existing primary care resources in the area, a population group designation may be more appropriate (see part II of this appendix).

(d) Hospital staff physicians involved exclusively in inpatient care will be excluded. The number of full-time equivalent physicians practicing in organized outpatient departments and primary care clinics will be included, but those in emergency rooms will be excluded.

(e) Physicians who are suspended under provisions of the Medicare-Medicaid Anti-Fraud and Abuse Act for a period of eighteen months or more will be excluded.

4. Determination of Unusually High Needs for Primary Medical Care Services.

An area will be considered as having unusually high needs for primary health care services if at least one of the following criteria is met:

(a) The area has more than 100 births per year per 1,000 women aged 15 - 44.

(b) The area has more than 20 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

(c) More than 20% of the population (or of all households) have incomes below the poverty level.

5. Determination of Insufficient Capacity of Existing Primary Care Providers.

An area's existing primary care providers will be considered to have insufficient capacity if at least two of the following criteria are met:

(a) More than 8,000 office or outpatient visits per year per FTE primary care physician serving the area.

(b) Unusually long waits for appointments for routine medical services (i.e., more than 7 days for established patients and 14 days for new patients).

(c) Excessive average waiting time at primary care providers (longer than one hour where patients have appointments or two hours where patients are treated on a first-come, first-served basis).

(d) Evidence of excessive use of emergency room facilities for routine primary care.

(e) A substantial proportion (2/3 or more) of the area's physicians do not accept new patients.

(f) Abnormally low utilization of health services, as indicated by an average of 2.0 or less office visits per year on the part of the area's population.

6. Contiguous Area Considerations.

Primary care professional(s) in areas contiguous to an area being considered for designation will be considered excessively distant, overutilized or inaccessible to the population of the area under consideration if one of the following conditions prevails in each contiguous area:

(a) Primary care professional(s) in the contiguous area are more than 30 minutes travel time from the population center(s) of the area being considered for designation (measured in accordance with paragraph B.1(b) of this part).

(b) The contiguous area population-to-full-time-equivalent primary care physician ratio is in excess of 2000:1, indicating that practitioners in the contiguous area cannot be expected to help alleviate the shortage situation in the area being considered for designation.

(c) Primary care professional(s) in the contiguous area are inaccessible to the population of the area under consideration because of specified access barriers, such as:

(i) Significant differences between the demographic (or socio-economic) characteristics of the area under consideration and those of the contiguous area, indicating that the population of the area under consideration may be effectively isolated from nearby resources. This isolation could be indicated, for example, by an unusually high proportion of non-English-speaking persons.

(ii) A lack of economic access to contiguous area resources, as indicated particularly where a very high proportion of the population of the area under consideration is poor (i.e., where more than 20 percent of the population or the households have incomes below the poverty level), and Medicaid-covered or public primary care services are not available in the contiguous area.

Part II -- Population Groups

A. Criteria.

1. In general, specific population groups within particular geographic areas will be designated as having a shortage of primary medical care professional(s) if the following three criteria are met:

(a) The area in which they reside is rational for the delivery of primary medical care services, as defined in paragraph B.1 of part I of this appendix.

(b) Access barriers prevent the population group from use of the area's primary medical care providers. Such barriers may be economic, linguistic, cultural, or architectural, or could involve refusal of some providers to accept certain types of patients or to accept Medicaid reimbursement.

(c) The ratio of the number of persons in the population group to the number of primary care physicians practicing in the area and serving the population group is at least 3,000:1.

2. Indians and Alaska Natives will be considered for designation as having shortages of primary care professional(s) as follows:

(a) Groups of members of Indian tribes (as defined in section 4(d) of Pub. L. 94 - 437, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act of 1976) are automatically designated.

(b) Other groups of Indians or Alaska Natives (as defined in section 4(c) of Pub. L. 94 - 437) will be designated if the general criteria in paragraph A are met.

Part III -- Facilities

A. Federal and State Correctional Institutions.

1. Criteria.

Medium to maximum security Federal and State correctional institutions and youth detention facilities will be designated as having a shortage of primary medical care professional(s) if both the following criteria are met:

(a) The institution has at least 250 inmates.

(b) The ratio of the number of internees per year to the number of FTE primary care physicians serving the institution is at least 1,000:1.

Here the number of internees is defined as follows:

(i) If the number of new inmates per year and the average length-of-stay (ALOS) are not specified, or if the information provided does not indicate that intake medical examinations are routinely performed upon entry, then -- Number of internees = average number of inmates.

(ii) If the ALOS is specified as one year or more, and intake medical examinations are routinely performed upon entry, then -- Number of internees = average number of inmates + (0.3) x number of new inmates per year.

(iii) If the ALOS is specified as less than one year, and intake examinations are routinely performed upon entry, then -- Number of internees = average number of inmates + (0.2) x (1+ALOS/2) x number of new inmates per year where ALOS = average length-of-stay (in fraction of year). (The number of FTE primary care physicians is computed as in part I, section B, paragraph 3 above.)

B. Public or Non-Profit Medical Facilities.

1. Criteria.

Public or non-profit private medical facilities will be designated as having a shortage of primary medical care professional(s) if:

(a) the facility is providing primary medical care services to an area or population group designated as having a primary care professional(s) shortage; and

(b) the facility has insufficient capacity to meet the primary care needs of that area or population group.

2. Methodology

In determining whether public or nonprofit private medical facilities meet the criteria established by paragraph B.1 of this Part, the following methodology will be used:

(a) Provision of Services to a Designated Area or Population Group.

A facility will be considered to be providing services to a designated area or population group if either:

(i) A majority of the facility's primary care services are being provided to residents of designated primary care professional(s) shortage areas or to population groups designated as having a shortage of primary care professional(s); or

(ii) The population within a designated primary care shortage area or population group has reasonable access to primary care services provided at the facility. Reasonable access will be assumed if the area within which the population resides lies within 30 minutes travel time of the facility and non-physical barriers (relating to demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the population) do not prevent the population from receiving care at the facility.

Migrant health centers (as defined in section 319(a)(1) of the Act) which are located in areas with designated migrant population groups and Indian Health Service facilities are assumed to be meeting this requirement.

(b) Insufficient capacity to meet primary care needs.

A facility will be considered to have insufficient capacity to meet the primary care needs of the area or population it serves if at least two of the following conditions exist at the facility:

(i) There are more than 8,000 outpatient visits per year per FTE primary care physician on the staff of the facility. (Here the number of FTE primary care physicians is computed as in Part I, Section B, paragraph 3 above.)

(ii) There is excessive usage of emergency room facilities for routine primary care.

(iii) Waiting time for appointments is more than 7 days for established patients or more than 14 days for new patients, for routine health services.

(iv) Waiting time at the facility is longer than 1 hour where patients have appointments or 2 hours where patients are treated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Relevant excerpts from 42 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Chapter 1, Part 5, Appendix A (October 1, 1993, pp. 34-48) Criteria for Designation of Areas Having Shortages of Primary Medical Care Professionals [45 FR 76000, Nov. 17, 1980, as amended at 54 FR 8737, Mar. 2, 1989; 57 FR 2480, Jan. 22, 1992]