The California Department of Health Services (DHCS) recently announced that it will fund $64.9 million in student loans for 222 physicians and 35 dentists. The latest round of funding focused on equity, such as the languages spoken by doctors, the treatment of children 0-3 years old and the number of patients with special needs seen by dentists. Additionally, scoring considered experience working with underserved communities and the ability to provide culturally and linguistically competent care to Medi-Cal communities.
The CalHealthCares program works collaboratively to support and encourage physicians and dentists to increase their participation in the Medi-Cal program. Receiving funding from the CalHealthCares program relieved these providers of the burden of student loan debt, while enabling them to improve access to care and support for the underserved. CalHealthCares requires recipients to maintain a patient caseload of at least 30% Medi-Cal recipients and less than 10% of the proposed Medi-Cal patient caseload in their application.
“These awards to our physicians and dentists reflect our continued commitment to addressing the longstanding inequities affecting many of our Medi-Cal enrollees, which the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored,” said DHCS Director Michelle Baass. . “The bursaries will remove the additional burden that student debt places on a doctor or dentist that influences where and how they practice. Our hope is that, without the financial stress of student loans, healthcare providers will continue to serve the Medi-Cal population once this patient base is established.
Among the 257 winners:
- 62% are people of color.
- 79% also speak a language other than English.
- 67 medical specialties and four dental specialties are represented.
- 57% are committed to maintaining a Medi-Cal workload of 65% or higher.
- Of the dentists, 80% treat patients aged 0-3 years and 77% treat patients with special needs.
For this fourth round of funding, CalHealthCares received 521 applications totaling approximately $135.4 million in funding requests to support the applicant’s educational debt of nearly $175 million. Since the program launched in 2019, it has awarded $285 million in student loan repayments to 843 providers across California, improving access to care for 14.8 million Medi-Cal recipients.
CalHealthCares is providing up to $300,000 in student debt relief in exchange for a five-year commitment to maintain a caseload of at least 30% Medi-Cal patients. Eligible dentists can apply for a loan repayment grant of up to $300,000 in exchange for a five-year service obligation or a practice support grant of up to $300,000 in exchange for a service obligation 10 years old. The program is open to providers within the first five years of practice.
Medical provides full medical coverage to more than one-third of Californians, including nearly half of the state’s children, half of all people with disabilities, and more than one million seniors. Medi-Cal also pays more than 50% of births and more than two out of three patient days in long-term care facilities.
Already facing a statewide doctor shortage, many California doctors and dentists are entering practice with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt. The average debt load from a CalHealthCares applicant is nearly $360,000.
“With our healthcare system still recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, our work is more important than ever to ensure California’s most vulnerable residents can get the care they need,” said said Physicians for a Healthy California (PHC) CEO Lupe Alonzo-Diaz. “Student loan debt is one of the biggest financial hurdles facing new doctors and dentists. CalHealthCares is proud to be able to remove this burden for our awardees so they can follow their passion and provide care to the underserved.
In 2018, SB 849 established the Medi-Cal Proposition 56 Physician and Dentist Loan Reimbursement Program and earmarked a one-time $220 million allocation to the Physician and Dentist Loan Assistance Program. recently graduated dentists. An additional $120 million was added to the program in the 2019-20 state budget, for a total of $340 million. Senate Bill 395 (Chapter 489, Statutes of 2021) provided continued funding for the program.
“Without the crushing worries of student debt, award-winning dentists will have the freedom to serve in communities where the need is greatest,” said Dr. Ariane Terlet, president of the California Dental Association. “CalHealthCares grants, along with other investments the state is making to ensure access to oral health care, will make a meaningful difference for all Californians.”
DHCS administers CalHealthCares, with PHC under contract to manage day-to-day operations. The next application round will open in January 2023. For more information, visit CalHealthCares.org (#CalHealthCares on social media).