The Health and Human Services Department has put regulations into effect to reduce delinquency rates on student loans issued by 1,000 nursing schools and 313 schools of medicine, osteopathy, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, podiatry and veterinary medicine.
The federal loans are offered at 6 percent interest for nursing students and at 9 percent for the other disciplines and are limited to $2,500 a year. Over the past two decades, HHS said, 376,000 nursing students have received $306 million in loans and 227,000 students in the other of schools have received $681 million. Delinquent nursing loans totaled $30 million in 1984 and delinquent loans in the other schools, $21 million.
Under the new rules, nursing schools will be required to reduce the dollar amount of delinquent loans to no more than 5 percent of the total value of all the loans held by students at the school or take certain steps to reach 5 percent, or face suspension and eventually removal from the program. A similar rule already applies to the other schools.
In addition, all the schools will be required to measure delinquency only in terms of dollars owed, not by the percentage of students who are behind in payments. The schools will also be required to undertake a 10-step collection procedure, including regular billings to the students and the use of collection agents, credit bureaus and legal proceedings against delinquent borrowers.
HHS has just notified eight of the 34 health professions schools that had been put on probation or suspended from the Health Professions Student Loan program as of last Dec. 31 that they have been removed from the program for failing to lower delinquency rates sufficiently. Thirteen of the schools have now met the new standard, according to a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Health Professions. Five are on probation, and eight have not filed the required reports. HHS will release the names of the schools later this week.
MEDICARE COVERAGE FOR HOSPICES . . . The National Hospice Organization says that so far, only 205 hospices out of more than 1,300 nationwide have been certified to receive Medicare payments. President John J. Mahoney said some hospices say Medicare rates are too low to justify going through the difficult certification process. Others, he said, say they are too small to justify the cost and trouble of certification, while others do not want to go to the trouble because the provisions allowing Medicare payments to hospices could be terminated on Oct. 1, 1986. Mahoney said more hospices will probably seek and receive certification if Congress adopts House amendments that would make the program permanent and raise the daily payment for home care for members of hospice groups from $53.17 to $63.17.
THE COST OF HEALTH CARE. . . Outlays for health care will rise to at least 12 percent of the gross national product by the year 2002, according to a survey of 415 national leaders in the health field by Project HOPE and the Policy Research Institute. In 1984, the figure was 10.6 percent, about $387.4 billion. The prediction that health costs will soon consume an eighth of the nation's GNP is similar to projections that HHS made earlier this year.
Is a competitive approach or direct government regulation the best way to moderate the price of health care? Forty-seven percent of those surveyed said both approaches should be used, 36 percent favored competition and the rest supported regulation.
A sixth of those surveyed said improved life styles is the factor that will most significantly affect the health-care system in the next 20 years, a sixth said some form of a national health-care system would be created and have the most impact, while another sixth said the development of corporate chains of health-care providers would be the biggest development. Only 9 percent said advances in biomedical technology would be the most important development.
THE COST OF ILLNESS . . . A study funded by the National Center for Health Services Research found that at least $53 billion a year in income is lost to working-age men because of illness. That amount is in addition to their medical costs.
The study found that about 6 million male workers lose $13 billion a year because they are forced to work shorter hours due to orthopedic problems and other conditions. In addition, 3 million men who are unable to work at all because of various chronic conditions lose $28 billion. On top of that, the study found that short-term illness among men costs them $11 billion annually through the loss of 272 million work days.
The study director estimated that the men lose additional potential earnings or incurred additional costs because they missed educational opportunities that would have increased their earnings, because they were forced to relocate and so forth. The loss of this income, the director estimated, probably increased the $53 billion figure by another third.