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Illinois Underserved Physician Workforce Program (UPW)

The Program’s Goal is to Assist Communities in Recruiting Physicians Willing to Practice Full-Time or Half-Time in Federal Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA).

Program funds are used to repay educational loans of eligible physicians who agree to serve full-time or half-time in a federally designated HPSA in Illinois without regard for the patient’s ability to pay.

Physicians may work less than full-time, but a minimum half-time, if they agree to double their obligation period.  The minimum grant for a full-time physician is two years. Half-time physicians will have a minimum obligation of four years in a HPSA.

Participant Requirements

Program applicants must:

  • Be licensed to practice medicine in Illinois as a general internist, family practice physician, general pediatrician, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, general surgeon or emergency medicine physician
  • Practice at a non-profit medical facility in a HPSA in Illinois
  • Participate as a provider in the Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program
  • Agree to see and treat all patients at the non-profit medical facility regardless of the patient’s ability to pay for service
  • Not have any judgment liens arising from federal debt
  • Not be excluded, suspended or disqualified by a federal agency
  • Sign a written agreement attesting to accepting repayment of health professional educational loans and to serve for the applicable period of obligated service in a non-profit medical facility in a HPSA in Illinois
  • Be a US citizen
  • Not be a current participant in any other loan repayment or scholarship program

What is the Amount of Financial Assistance?

For the Minimum Two Years Full-time Service:

Up to $50,000.00. However, if the total amount of the applicant’s qualified educational loans is less than $50,000.00, the amount of loan assistance received will be reduced accordingly. The loan repayment assistance will be comprised of one half of the amount awarded in a lump sum to the Physician and the remaining one-half will be awarded to the Site to then be disbursed to the Physician quarterly for the duration of the agreement term.

Maximum Repayment Amount: Up to $50,000

A participant must enter into a minimum two-year contract for full-time service or four-year contract for half-time service.

Work Requirements

Every participant is required to engage in the full-time or half-time clinical practice of the profession for which the participant was awarded a loan repayment contract. Full-time practice means, for primary care physicians, working a minimum of 40 hours per week, for a minimum of 45 weeks per year, at a non-profit medical facility located in a HPSA in Illinois. For general surgeons and emergency medicine physicians, full-time practice means working a minimum of 32 hours per week, for a minimum of 45 weeks per year, at a non-profit medical facility in a HPSA in Illinois.

The 32 or 40 hours per week as applicable may be compressed into no less than four days per week for full-time and two days a week for half-time participants.  Time spent “on call” status will not count toward the 32 or 40 hours per week requirement. Hours worked over the required 32 or 40 hours per week shall not be applied to any other work week.

A half-time clinical practice is defined as a minimum of 16 hours per week for general surgeons and emergency medical physicians but no more than 31 and a minimum of 20 hours per week but no more than 39 hours per week for all other physicians. The 16 or 20 hour per week requirement may be compressed into no less than two days per week.

No more than seven weeks (35 workdays) per year can be spent away from the practice for vacation, holidays, continuing professional education, illness or any other reason. Absences greater than seven weeks in a service year will extend the service commitment end date.

Reporting Requirements

Each loan repayment participant must complete and submit to the Department a verification form for each quarter of service. The submission will verify the participant's compliance/noncompliance with the full-time or half-time clinical practice requirement during that quarter and payment of the funds received on their qualifying educational loans.

The submission will also record the participant’s time spent away from the practice site during that quarter. Continued receipt of loan repayment benefits will be contingent on a participant’s timely submission of the quarterly verification forms.

All loan repayments made to the participant must be used to repay the participant’s approved qualifying educational loans. Documentation of those payments must be sent to the Department in the quarterly report submitted through the UPW link on the IDPH website within 30 days of receiving the funds.

How Will Payments be Made?

The Department will pay participants one half of the total award upon execution of the grant between the Department and the participant. The other half of the funding is distributed to the site. Subsequently, the site will disburse this funding to the participant at the end of each quarter. Participants will be responsible for payments to the financial institutions holding their educational loans.

What are the Repayment Obligations?

Participants who, for any reason, fail to begin or complete the required period of obligated service shall be liable to the Department for an amount equal to the number of months of obligated service not completed multiplied by $7,500 and interest on the above amounts at the maximum legal prevailing rate, as determined by the Treasurer of the United States from the date of breach. The minimum amount the Department is entitled to recover will not be less than $31,000.

Any amount the Department is entitled to recover shall be paid within one year of the date the Director determines that the participant is in breach of the written contract. Failure to pay the Department by the due date has the following consequences:

  • The debt will be reported to all appropriate credit reporting agencies
  • Any loan repayment debt past due for three months shall be referred to a debt collection agency. If the debt collection agency is unsuccessful in receiving payment in full, the debt will be referred to the Illinois Attorney General for enforced collection
  • Under the provisions of the State Comptroller Act, participants will have their loan repayment assistance funds offset to fulfill a delinquent State debt. The offset of loan repayment assistance funds will not reduce, waive, defer or suspend a recipient’s service obligation

How Do I Submit an Application?

Applications must be submitted through the UPW website.

Questions about UPW may be directed to: dph.upw@illinois.gov or 217-782-1624.

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