Application period opens for new CalHealthCares student loan repayment program

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — CalHealthCares is now accepting applications for a new statewide loan repayment program that will offer up to $220 million in tobacco tax revenues to pay off educational debt for physicians and dentists who agree to see more Medi-Cal patients.

Individual awardees will be eligible to receive as much as $300,000 to repay educational debt incurred in pursuit of a medical degree. Eligible dentists may apply for either a loan repayment up to $300,000 in exchange for a five-year service obligation, or a practice support grant up to $300,000 in exchange for a ten-year service obligation. All medical and dental specialties are eligible. In this cycle, CalHealthCares expects to award approximately 125 physicians and 20 dentists.

The program—which aims to increase access to care for California’s 13 million Medi-Cal patients—was made possible by Proposition 56, the 2016 tobacco tax measure that provided a one-time allocation of $220 million for state loan repayment for providers who treat low-income patients. The California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) has contracted with Physicians for a Healthy California (PHC) to administer the program.

Applications will be accepted until April 26. The first awards will be announced on June 30, 2019. The awards are intended to improve access to care for low-income patients, creating economic incentives for physicians and dentists to provide care to Medi-Cal beneficiaries. Awardees must agree to a patient mix that includes at least 30 percent Medi-Cal patients for five years.

Awardees must:
· Have an unrestricted license and be in good standing with their licensing board

· Be an active enrolled Medi-Cal provider without suspensions, disbarments or revocations; or have submitted an application to DHCS to become a Medi-Cal provider

· Have graduated from a physician residency program and/or completed a fellowship within the past five years (on or after January 1, 2014)

· Not currently be participating in another loan repayment program

· Practice in California

· For those applying for the loan repayment program, have existing educational loan debt incurred while pursuing a medical or dental degree

· For those applying for the practice support grant, have an existing dental practice and expand and/or relocate to a targeted county.

· Providers must maintain a patient caseload of 30 percent or more Medi-Cal beneficiaries

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