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California dentists can apply for up to $300K in CalHealthCares educational loan repayment or practice support grant

Deadline extension: Applications accepted through March 17

January 23, 2023 3458
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Update: The fifth CalHealthCares application cycle ended March 17. Physicians for a Healthy California will announce recipients of the student loan repayment grant and practice support grant this summer. CDA will also share news about dentist recipients in the online newsroom and member newsletter. The next application cycle will open in January 2024.

Jan. 23, 2023: 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 original deadline to apply for the current “cohort 5” award cycle was March 3, but the deadline was extended to 10 p.m. Friday, March 17.

Eligibility and required Medi-Cal service commitment

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:

  • Have an unrestricted license and be in good standing with the Dental Board of California.
  • Not be participating in another disqualifying loan repayment program or practice support grant as of August 1, 2023.
  • Be an active enrolled Medi-Cal provider without existing suspensions, disbarments or revocations or have submitted their application to DHCS to become a Medi-Cal provider.
  • Have existing educational loan debt incurred while pursuing a medical or dental degree or have an existing dental practice and willing to relocate, expand or establish a new practice to a target county.

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.” 

Recorded informational webinars available

The last day to apply is March 17, extended from the original March 3 deadline. Applicants who submitted their application by the early review deadline of 5 p.m. Feb. 3 were eligible to receive feedback about potential inconsistencies on their application and had the opportunity to revise and resubmit their application.

Applicants who missed the informational webinars in January and February, including the session on Jan. 26 to review the more complex practice support grant application, can access the recorded webinars on the CalHealthCares website. Applications, instructions, fact sheets and other resources are accessed through the CalHealthCares site.

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.

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