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Medically Underserved Areas - Populations
The federal Medically Underserved Area (MUA) and Medically Underserved Population (MUP) designations identify areas and populations that have limited access to primary care services. MUAs include groups of census tracts that have a population-to-provider ratio indicating a shortage. Medically Underserved Populations (MUPs) may include groups of persons who face economic, cultural or linguistic barriers to health care in the District and reside in a specific geographic area.
MUA/P designations are used to qualify for state/local and federal programs aimed at increasing health services to underserved areas and populations. Programs in DC that rely on MUA/P designations include: DC’s Health Professional Loan Repayment and DC 30/J-1 Visa Waiver programs and the Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) program operated by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
MUA determinations are based on an Index of Medical Underservice (IMU) for a defined service area (i.e. group of census tracts which represent a neighborhood with similar socioeconomic and demographic characteristics). IMU calculations rely on data on demographic indicators associated with underservice. The IMU scale is from 0 to 100, where 0 represents completely underserved and 100 represents best-served or least underserved.
MUP designations are based on the same data elements and the same calculations that are used for MUAs; however, the demographic and provider data used for MUPs should be specific to the population to be designated (e.g. only data on providers that serve the population of interest should be included). A score of 62 or less qualifies a population as medically underserved (MUP).
As of 2010, DC had a total of 9 MUAs encompassing 86 census tracts and no MUP designations. Approximately 45% of the population of the District was residing in a MUA.
MUA/P designations do not expire. Designation of new MUA/Ps requires collection of extensive information on providers practicing in the areas of interest. The Primary Care Bureau must submit any/all applications for MUA/P designations. Any entity interested in designating currently undesignated areas/populations as MUA/Ps should contact the Bureau.
For more information on MUA/P’s, please contact (202) 442-5892.