Prepare to apply for CalHealthCares student loan repayment or practice support grant

Eligible dentists and dental students in California can apply Jan. 13 to Feb. 7, 2020, for student loan repayment of up to $300,000 or a practice support grant — also up to $300,000 — through the Medi-Cal Physicians and Dentists Loan Repayment Program known as CalHealthCares.

The program is funded by state tobacco tax (Proposition 56) revenue and is intended to expand access to care for Medi-Cal patients. Recipients of the student loan repayment must be recent graduates and maintain a minimum patient caseload of at least 30% Medi-Cal beneficiaries for five years. Practice support grant recipients must submit a business plan demonstrating ability to relocate, expand or establish a practice in one of the specific counties determined to have the highest need for Medi-Cal dentists and be willing to commit to the program for 10 years.

In August, the program, which is overseen by the Department of Health Care Services and administered by Physicians for a Healthy California, announced awards worth $10.1 million in student loan repayments to 38 dentists. Loan repayments worth $57.3 million were awarded to 240 physicians. No practice support grants were awarded in this first year of the program.

To improve their application scores, individuals who wish to apply for an award in 2020 are encouraged to review materials, including eligibility requirements and application instructions, and to attend a live webinar or watch a recorded webinar. All materials will be available on the CalHealthCares website. Due to the narrow application window, applying early might also allow program staff to address any problem areas with the applicant well ahead of the Feb. 7 deadline.

Among other reasons, applicants were deemed ineligible for a grant in 2019 if they (1) were found by DHCS to be not in good standing (e.g., were not enrolled in Medi-Cal or had an active suspension), (2) submitted an incomplete employer verification form or a form that included information that was inconsistent with information provided within the application, (3) were already enrolled in another loan repayment program at the time of application and (4) did not meet the graduation date requirement (student loan repayment grant applicants must have graduated no more than five years prior to application).

PHC identified the most common omissions and mistakes on the 2019 applications that contributed to lower scores. These are covered in detail in the webinars. Guidance for each section of the application is also provided here for quick reference. Application sections are scored independently; therefore, to score highly, applicants must answer all questions in each section.

Employment Verification Form

Health Professional Shortage Area

Patient Caseload

Personal Statement

List languages other than English that you use to speak directly with patients in the practice without the use of translation services.

Provide the correct facility address for employment (required to receive points). You must provide the correct facility address in order to receive points for the high-need area you work in.

Fill out both tables and provide quality answers to the two-part narrative questions (see below).

Provide quality answers to the three narrative questions (see below).

Ensure that the languages you report in the EVF match the languages you list in the application.

Note that PHC staff will enter your HPSA score and that not all applicants will have a HPSA score.

Answer the question about your current patient caseload per the first table and the second question about future patient caseload, if awarded, per the second table.

Describe your experience working with underserved communities, especially the Medi-Cal community, and your commitment to Medi-Cal beneficiaries.

Ensure that the hours you report in the EVF match the hours you report in the application.


Describe quantitatively how you calculated your individual patient caseload.

Describe the need your geographic area has for your specialty.



Articulate how you will meet your proposed patient caseload and how you will maintain and/or increase access to care (i.e., patient caseload) with this award.

Articulate how you will improve the oral health of your patients.


Required business plan

Individuals who apply for the practice support grant must:

  • Provide a well-researched business plan that documents their plans for establishing, expanding or relocating their practice to one of the highest-need counties listed on the application.
  • Include in their business plan a general company description and information on products and services, economics, patients and consumers, personnel, equipment and supplies and a revenue forecast or financial plan.

The section on patient caseload is weighted the heaviest on both award applications (20 out of 45 possible points for the loan repayment grant and 20/50 for the practice support grant) followed by the personal statement (10 points) and, for the practice support grant only, the business plan (10 points).

When addressing patient caseload, PHC stresses that applicants need to fill out both the current and proposed patient caseload tables and answer all questions in the two narrative questions: 1) How will they calculate their existing Medi-Cal beneficiary caseload and 2) How will they and their employer meet their Medi-Cal patient caseload.

Applicants in the 2020 application cycle will be notified of awards on or around May 1, 2020.

CDA and other health care organizations sponsored Proposition 56 in 2016 and voters approved it by a strong margin at the polls. CalHealthCares is currently funded to award a total of $47.5 million to dentists through fiscal year 2023-24.

Find eligibility requirements, Q&As, recorded webinars and more information on the CalHealthCares website. Email any questions to Apply online through the website beginning Jan. 13, 2020.

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