National Health Policy Forum

Background Paper

No. 75
Date: JUNE 4, 2010
Title: Health Care Shortage Designations: HPSA, MUA, and TBD
Author: Eileen Salinsky, Consultant
Summary: A wide variety of federal programs designed to improve access to health care services rely on specific criteria to designate areas and populations eligible for funding and other types of aid. Two related yet distinct designations, the Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) and the Medically Underserved Area (MUA), are most commonly used to identify underserved people or places. This background paper reviews the methodologies currently utilized in these designations, identifies the federal programs that use these designations to allocate resources, describes proposals that have been advanced to consolidate and improve these designations, and discusses key issues and challenges for future effort.