The federal Health Resources and Services Administration recently approved all of Orleans Parish as a new primary care, mental health and dental health professional shortage area.

These designations make the parish eligible for more state and federal health care resources, including a 10% Medicare bonus payment for physicians furnishing certain services in the parish.  Details about the 10% Medicare bonus payment and eligible services can be found in the Medicare Part B Manual available at

“The approval of these designations illustrates the drastic changes in the area’s health care delivery system and population.  Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Orleans Parish had one of the largest concentrations of primary care providers and other health professionals in the state,” said Department of Health Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise. “This new designation will provide incentives for physicians and other providers to return to the area to provide much-needed health care services for area residents.”

DHH’s Bureau of Primary Care and Rural Health reviews areas in the state for shortages of health care professionals.  Following Hurricane Katrina, the Bureau collected information about population changes and the availability of health care services.  The Bureau determined that Orleans Parish now has less than one primary care physician for every 3,200 residents, less than one psychiatrist for every 21,000 residents and less than one dentist for every 5,000 residents.  These unprecedented ratios of health care providers to population in this parish meet the federal guidelines for declaring a health professional shortage.

Some areas of Orleans Parish were designated as shortage areas prior to the hurricanes; however, these areas mostly included small urban pockets that were geographically or socio-economically isolated from adequate health care services.  This new designation is inclusive of the entire parish.

In addition to the 10% Medicare bonus, health professional shortage area designations qualify areas for a number of programs including the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment and Scholars Programs, the J-1 Visa Waiver Program, the State Loan Repayment Program and recruitment services through Med Job Louisiana.  The designations are also a factor for areas seeking rural health clinics or federally qualified health centers.

For a complete overview and map of all health professional shortage areas in the state, visit