Health professional shortage areas (HPSAs) and medically underserved areas (MUAs), established under the U.S. Public Health Service Act, are federal designations of a geographic area (usually a county or a collection of townships or census tracts) which meet the criteria as needing additional primary health care services. Designation as a HPSA or MUA is based on the availability of health professional resources within a rational service area. The definition of a rational service area is usually based on a thirty-minute travel time. Other factors considered in the designation process are the availability of primary care resources in contiguous areas and the presence of unusually high need, such as high infant mortality rate or high poverty rate. HPSA designations usually apply to geographic areas, but may apply to population groups and facilities. The Division of Shortage Designation, Bureau of Primary Care, Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for the designation process. The Indiana State Department of Health, Office of Primary Care is responsible for the submission of HPSA and MUA designation requests and updates to the Division of Shortage Designation.
Federal opportunities available to Health Professional Shortage Areas include: National Health Service Corps Scholarship and Loan Repayment Programs, Rural Health Clinic Act, Medicare Incentive Payments for Physician's services furnished in HPSAs, and Area Health Education Center Program.