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Eligible California dentists can once again apply through CalHealthCares for either an educational loan repayment or practice support grant up to $300,000 in exchange for making a Medi-Cal service commitment.
Now in its fifth annual application cycle, CalHealthCares incentivizes dentists and physicians to serve Medi-Cal beneficiaries by repaying providers’ educational debt or covering eligible practice-related expenses with the overall goal of expanding access to care.
The program is overseen by the California Department of Health Care Services and funded by Proposition 56 — the state tobacco tax co-sponsored by CDA and passed by voters in 2016. Since its launch in 2019, 148 California dentists have received over $38 million in funding.
The deadline to apply for the current “cohort 5” award cycle is Friday, March 3.
Dentists who apply for a student loan repayment make a five-year commitment to maintain a patient caseload composed of at least 30% Medi-Cal beneficiaries and within 10% of the Medi-Cal patient caseload proposed in their application. Applicants must have graduated from dental school no earlier than Jan. 1, 2018, or be positioned to graduate from a residency or fellowship program and moving toward employment no later than June 30.
Dentists who apply for the practice support grant can use the awarded funds to establish, expand or relocate a dental practice to a California county designated as having a highest patient need for Medi-Cal Dental services. In exchange, the awardee makes a 10-year commitment to maintain a patient caseload composed of at least 30% Medi-Cal beneficiaries and within 10% of the Medi-Cal patient caseload proposed in their application.
All applicants must practice in California and:
A snapshot of cohort-4 awardees showed that dentists' average proposed Medi-Cal caseload was 70% - higher than the 61% average caseload proposed by all applicants, including primary care physicians and physician specialists. The 35 dentists and 222 physicians who received an award had total educational debt of $176.08 million and received a combined $64.89 million in awards. One of the dentist awardees received a practice support grant.
“CalHealthCares is a program that keeps on giving. For four years and counting, the program has increased access to care for underserved communities while simultaneously bringing debt relief to California dentists, some of whom are facing educational debt of up to $300,000,” said CDA President John Blake, DDS. “This program supports dentists and Medi-Cal patients statewide, and we at CDA are proud of the tremendous impact this program continues to make through the ongoing funding we’ve advocated for.”
The deadline to apply is March 3; however, applicants who submit their application by the early review deadline of 5 p.m. Feb. 3 can receive feedback about potential inconsistencies on their application and will have the opportunity to revise and resubmit their application.
Applicants can register to attend informational webinars in January and February, including application Q-and-A sessions and a session on Jan. 26 to review the more complex practice support grant application. For example, practice support grant applicants must submit a valid business plan that addresses nine questions.
Applications, application instructions and fact sheets, webinar registration links, links to recorded webinars and other resources are available on the CalHealthCares website.
Applicants can expect to be notified of awards in June.
Dentists can also subscribe to receive news about the program by emailing CalHealthCares with “subscribe” in the email subject line.