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      Hidalgo County no longer designated 'undeserved area' for healthcare

      In an effort to attract health professionals to underserved areas, the Health Resources and Services Administration developed criteria that would designated an area a "Health Professional Shortage Area."

      In 1994, Hidalgo County was designated one of those areas.

      For years, those health professionals who relocated to the Rio Grande Valley received bonuses from the federal government"as an incentive.

      Recently, there has been question as to whether or not Hidalgo County should continue receiving these bonuses after several letters to the Health Resources and Services Administration stated the status for Hidalgo County changed.

      It was no longer an underserved area.

      Action 4 News obtained those documents that show, on numerous occasions, the Health Resources and Services Administration was notified of the change status for Hidalgo County.

      In a memo to Deputy Health and Human Services Secretary, William Corr, Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson stated that, ~fieldwork by special agents with the office of investigation revealed the ~Health Professional Shortage Areas TM or ~Medically Underserved Areas TM in McAllen now have a high concentration of health care facilities and no longer meet the requirements for the program.

      According to the memo, on March 30, 2005 they proposed to ~withdraw TM Hidalgo County from the HRSA designation---it also stated that the Health Resources and Services Administration never acted on the recommendation.

      Action 4 News contacted the HRSA and asked why they failed to act on the recommendation by the Health and Human Services and how the error could have accrued"they sent over this statement.

      HRSA cannot speak to why this did not happen in the past, but what I can tell you is when the current HRSA administrator was made aware of the situation, she set the agency on a path and HRSA is now fully addressing the statutory requirement to publish a Federal Register Notice.

      Action 4 News also contacted the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services---they would not go ~on record TM regarding this incident and referred us back to the Health Resources and Services Administration.

      To read the complete memo, click on the link below.