WellCare Gives $15,000 to Encourage Medical Students to Practice in Georgia's Rural Communities

One in Five Georgians - Two Million People - Live In Rural Areas

Feb 25, 2016, 08:30 ET from WellCare Health Plans, Inc.

ATLANTA and TAMPA, Fla., Feb. 25, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The health care needs of rural populations are constantly evolving; they are increasingly affected by accessibility issues, fewer health care providers and the challenges associated with aging. They also bear a greater burden of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and infant conditions than their urban counterparts. WellCare of Georgia, a subsidiary of WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG), is helping to address the declining number of primary care physicians in rural areas through a $15,000 contribution to the Medical College of Georgia's (MCG) Rural Health Track, located at its Albany, Georgia, campus.

The contribution was provided to three inaugural students of MCG's Rural Health Track to help offset their tuition and living expenses.

Rural Georgia continues to experience a shortage of primary care physicians, a trend that has prompted action from Georgia medical schools to emphasize placing graduates in those areas.

According to the National Rural Health Association, only 10 percent of physicians currently practice in rural America.  However, national data suggests rural health tracks are successful in encouraging graduates to practice in these underserved communities.

MCG, part of Augusta University and the only public academic health science center in the state, is working in partnership with Georgia Statewide Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Network, the premier health workforce pipeline program for Georgia, to respond to the shortage of health professionals practicing in rural and underserved areas of the state. Georgia Statewide AHEC works with all public and private health providers, health professionals, students, educators, state agencies and communities to recruit, train and retain health care providers.

"The Rural Health Track for MCG was created with deliberate thought to expose medical students to both the challenges and rewards of practicing medicine in rural areas early in their education," said Denise Kornegay, executive director of the Georgia Statewide AHEC. "The three inaugural students from diverse backgrounds are all committed to practice in a rural Georgia community upon graduation. Partnerships such as this one with WellCare are critical to help assist these aspiring physicians with the heavy financial burdens associated with a pursuit of a degree in medicine."

"We are proud to support this prestigious program, which encourages medical students to practice in our rural communities," said Roman Kulich, WellCare's region president, Georgia and South Carolina. "Medical training in underserved, rural areas significantly increases the likelihood that resident physicians will remain in these communities and continue their medical practices, increasing access to quality health care in rural settings."

As of Dec. 31, 2015, WellCare serves approximately 585,000 Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids® plan members, 36,000 Medicare Advantage plan members and 22,000 Medicare Prescription Drug Plan members in Georgia. To learn more about how we care for Georgians watch Gloria's story at http://youtu.be/qyn-nywze04.

About WellCare Health Plans, Inc. Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (NYSE: WCG) focuses exclusively on providing government-sponsored managed care services, primarily through Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, to families, children, seniors and individuals with complex medical needs. WellCare serves approximately 3.8 million members nationwide as of Dec. 31, 2015. For more information about WellCare, please visit the company's website at www.wellcare.com or view the company's videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/WellCareHealthPlan.

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SOURCE WellCare Health Plans, Inc.