Oklahoma Mulls Tax Credit to Attract Doctors to Rural Areas

Published March 12, 2020

House Bill 3823, introduced February 10 by House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) would begin in 2021 and apply to practice in communities with a population of under 25,000 and located at least 25 miles from a community with a population greater than 25,000. The physicians would have to reside in the same county where the qualifying income was earned. Credits can be claimed for a maximum of five years. In a news release, McCall says he would seek to expand the time frame if the credit attracts more doctors. 

In a release, McCall stated Oklahoma ranks near the bottom of states in access to primary care in rural areas and needs a multifaceted solution.

“This would allow those doctors to take that money they saved and invest it in their practices,” McCall stated. 

Desperate States

Tax credits to encourage care for underserved populations or communities are gaining popularity across the states. 

The South Carolina Medical Association is advocating for an amendment to the state’s tax code that would offer tax credits for doctors providing patients free care through charity organizations. The Rural Health Information Hub, which monitors rural health care throughout the United States, reports Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, and Oregon offer up to a $5,000 income tax credit for some or all forms of rural health care delivery. 

It is too early to determine the impact of tax credits on care, says Davis Patterson, PhD., director of the Collaborative for Rural Primary Care Research, Education and Practice. 

“To my knowledge, no one has studied tax incentives for physicians,” Patterson told Health Care News

Patterson says tax credits are not as common as student loan repayment incentives to encourage rural health care. 

“I think effectiveness [of tax credits] would depend on how the tax incentive is structured, the total amount offered, and how it is targeted,” Patterson said.

Loan repayments have been shown to attract and retain practitioners in rural areas, Patterson says. 

“Though, long-term retention can be harder to predict,” Patterson said. “More important may be making sure that providers have favorable working conditions, a motivation to care for rural communities, including a good fit with rural living, wherever it may be.”

Sixty percent of Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas, as designated by the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration, are in rural communities.


Ashley Bateman ([email protected]writes from Alexandria, Virginia.


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Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall, (R – Atoka):