WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) and Rep. Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08) released the following statement today following the introduction of the Safety Net Health Plan Employee Student Loan Forgiveness Fairness Act. This legislation would codify safety net health plans as qualifying employers under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and expand access to Public Service Loan Forgiveness to employees working for certain safety net health plans.

Currently, the Department of Education’s (DOE) Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program forgives remaining federal loan balances after a borrower performs 10 years of work for qualifying public service employers and makes 120 months of qualifying payments. Recently, the DOE has begun more narrowly defining what employers qualify as “qualifying public service organizations.” As a result, some borrowers who were formerly making qualifying payments under the program are being denied, despite working for employers that formerly qualified as PSLF-eligible employers. Included among those impacted are employees for certain safety net health plans.

“Safety net health plans provide access to quality Medicaid, Medicare, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage, and employees of these government and non-profit health plans deserve access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF),” said Reps. Adam Smith and Kim Schrier. “The Department of Education’s recent decision to rescind some of these employers’ eligibility for the PSLF program has resulted in employees having the rug pulled out from under them.”

“These plans exist entirely to support recipients of federal safety net health care programs, and employees who work for them should continue to qualify for the PSLF program,” said Reps. Adam Smith and Kim Schrier. “This bill would codify safety net health plans as qualifying employers under the PSLF Program and expand access for employees working for 501(c)4 safety net health plans while retroactively ensuring current borrowers who were denied loan forgiveness or qualifying payments are able to obtain credit for payments they already made.”

Organizations such as the Association for Community Affiliated Plans and the Community Health Plan of Washington have echoed these sentiments and showed their support:

“Congress has long recognized that safety net health plans serve a unique role in America’s health care system,” said Meg Murray, CEO of the Association for Community Affiliated Plans. “This legislation furthers that commitment by recognizing what ACAP and our members have long known – that we could not serve our 20 million plan enrollees without the dedication of staff committed to our mission. We appreciate Reps. Schrier and Smith’s strong support of the people who make SNHPs so successful.”

“Student debt is a significant economic and social burden many individuals face and can further deter people interested in pursuing careers in the nonprofit sector,” said Leanne Berge, CEO of Community Health Plan of Washington. “In addition, it is no surprise low-income students and people of color are disproportionately burdened by debt which further contributes to the systemic and racial inequities present in society. As a local not for profit safety net health plan providing high quality care to the most vulnerable, it is vital we provide opportunities to help ease loan burden for employees dedicated to working in the nonprofit sector and making contributions to their communities. This bill is a huge step in increasing access, removing burden and working towards equity.”