Burr Introduces the Medical Economic Deferment for Students (MEDS) Act

Legislation helps medical students facing economic hardship

U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) today introduced a bill to help medical students as they start their medical residency. The Medical Economic Deferment for Students Act (MEDS Act)would restore the medical student loan deferment program, also known as the 20/220 rule. This rule was eliminated in the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (P.L. 110-84) and has had a negative effect on the ability of medical residents to repay their student loans.

"Many of our nation's medical residents rely on the loan deferment program, and I am pleased to offer this bill to give them assistance as they start their careers," Burr said.

Medical residents on average have a student loan debt of $130,571. Under the 20/220 rule, students were able to defer loan payments without accruing interest on their federally-subsidized student loans for up to three years. Qualifications included a debt burden of greater than 20% of their income, and that their income minus their debt burden could not be greater than 220% of the federal poverty level. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, up to 67% of graduating medical students are eligible for deferment under the rule. Reinstating the 20/220 provision permanently ensures that medical residents will not be forced to begin repaying their loans before they have the means.

"As we hear reports that our country will soon face a shortage of doctors, it makes no sense that we would make it even harder for students who aren't independently wealthy to pursue a career in medicine. This bill will give medical students a helping hand as they set out to care for the sick or discover the next medical breakthrough," Burr added.

The American Medical Association has warned that the higher debt burden these residents will face can deter many from practicing in underserved areas of the country or in medical education and research. With recent reports indicating the United States is facing a shortage of physicians in the future, reinstatement of the student loan deferment could prompt students who could otherwise not afford medical school to give a career in medicine a second look.