L.A. Care, a health insurance plan for Los Angeles County’s neediest residents, has dedicated $2 million to provide student loan debt relief to 14 physicians who are working within the county to provide care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.

“Nearly 90% of medical school graduates have some student loan debt, and the average amount owed is more than $241,000,” John Baackes, chief executive officer of L.A. Care, said in a statement.

“That has contributed to the shortage of primary care physicians in underserved communities,” he said. “L.A. Care is committed to ensuring its members, many of whom are low-income people of color, have access to high quality physicians.”

The commitment is the sixth round of loan repayment program grants in L.A. Care’s $155 million Elevating the Safety Net initiative, which launched in 2018 to recruit, train and retain highly-qualified primary care physicians within the L.A. County safety net.

Among the grantees in this round is Dr. Jeanne Delgado, a pediatrician working at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

“The sense of service, enjoyment, and humility that comes with choosing to practice primary care for low-income families is priceless,” Delgado said. “We know that their care deserves to be valued, and I am so thankful that L.A. Care, in turn, sees that value in us.”

Dr. Grace Nguyen, a pediatrician working at Tri-State Community Healthcare Clinic in Pomona, said she is “relieved knowing that I can focus on providing comprehensive medical care to vulnerable children without worrying about the student loan burden I had accumulated.”

Since the launch of Elevating the Safety Net, L.A. Care, with the help of Uncommon Good, a nonprofit that helps identify the appropriate grantees, has awarded nearly $26 million in loan repayment grants in support of 158 physicians, according to the health plan which serves more than 2.7 million members in Los Angeles County.

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