Massachusetts Health Care Workforce Center


What is a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA)?

Federal designations reflecting a shortage of primary medical care, dental or mental health providers, in accordance with the federal guidelines. This designation may be established in urban or rural areas, population groups, or in medical or other public facilities.

Health Professional Shortage Areas can be established for:

  • Primary Medical Care
  • Dental
  • Mental Health

How can I get more information on my area's HPSA designation status?

  • Geographic - indicates a shortage of primary medical care, dental and mental health providers in the total population
  • Population - indicates that the population in a specific area is underserved relevant to primary medical care, dental and mental health providers
  • Facility - community health centers, rural health clinics, federal and state correctional facilities, youth detention centers, state or county mental health hospitals, public or non-profit facilities
  • Exceptional - is available for rural health clinics only
  • Medicaid - primary medical care or dental providers who accept Medicaid

Are there other shortage designations besides HPSAs?

Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs) may be a whole county or a group of counties or towns, or a group of urban census tracts in which residents have a shortage of health services.

Medically Underserved Populations (MUPs) may include large groups of people who face economic, cultural or linguistic barriers to health care.

What is an Automatic HPSA?

The Health Care Safety Net Amendments of 2002 provided for automatic facility HPSA status for all Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and those Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) that meet the requirement of providing access to care regardless of ability to pay. Automatic HPSAs cover primary care, dental and mental health services. More information regarding automatic HPSA designations can be found on the Bureau of Health Professions site.

What federal and state programs are designated CHCs eligible for?

The following designation requirement information is subject to change without notice. This information was current at its posted date of August 8, 2005 .

A general practitioner, family practitioner, internal medicine specialist, pediatrician or obstetrician/gynecologist in a Primary Care HPSA may be eligible to take part in the following:

  • National Health Service Corps
  • CMS Medicare Incentive Payment
  • CMS Rural Health Clinic Program
  • J-1 Visa Waiver
  • Conrad 30
  • Massachusetts State Loan Repayment Program

A dentist or dental hygienist in a Dental HPSA may be eligible to take part in the following:

  • National Health Service Corps
  • Massachusetts State Loan Repayment Program

A psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, clinical social worker, psychiatric nurse specialist or marriage and family specialist in a Mental Health HPSA may be eligible to take part in the following:

  • National Health Service Corps
  • J-1 Visa Waiver
  • Massachusetts State Loan Repayment Program

A provider in a Geographic HPSA may be eligible to take part in the following:

  • National Health Service Corps
  • CMS Medicare Incentive Payment
  • CMS Rural Health Clinic Program
  • J-1 Visa Waiver

A provider in a Population HPSA may be eligible to take part in the following:

  • National Health Service Corps
  • CMS Rural Health Clinic Program
  • J-1 Visa Waiver

A provider in a Facility HPSA may be eligible to take part in the following:

  • National Health Service Corps
  • J-1 Visa Waiver

A provider in an Exceptional HPSA may be eligible to take part in the following:

  • Federally Qualified Health Center Program
  • J-1 Visa Waiver

A primary care provider in a Medically Underserved Area may be eligible to take part in the following:

  • Federally Qualified Health Center Program
  • CMS Rural Health Clinic Program
  • J-1 Visa Waiver

A primary care provider in a Medically Underserved Population may be eligible to take part in the following:

  • Federally Qualified Health Center Program
  • J-1 Visa Waiver

A provider in a State Governor's Certified Shortage Area may be eligible to take part in the following:

  • CMS Rural Health Clinic Program

What resources does the Massachusetts DPH offer regarding HPSA designation?

  • Identifies areas with under-served populations
  • Provides technical assistance and survey tools to appropriate areas in MA
  • Conducts an assessment of designation options
  • Works with communities to determine a designation strategy
  • Coordinates HPSA activities with the Primary Care Association, Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers (MLCHC)
  • Evaluates designation requests
  • Reviews applications submitted by other entities within the state
  • Notifies a facility and/or community regarding change of designation status

How is the Shortage Designation Branch at the Federal Bureau of Health Professions involved with HPSA designation?

  • Develops guidelines, rules and procedures for shortage designations
  • Reviews and approves designation requests
  • Maintains communication with the Primary Care Office
  • Notifies the Primary Care Office of HPSA application and designation status
  • Maintains an online database of all HPSAs, MUAs and MUPs

Are there any additional resources that I should consider?


This information is provided by the Office of Primary Care within the Department of Public Health.