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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: December 3, 2020 01:17 PM
From: Representative Karen Boback
To: All House members
Subject: Student Loan Forgiveness for Dentists Act
As I did last session, I plan to re-introduce legislation (HB 488) that would change the loan forgiveness amount for dentists to $200,000. This year, in consultation with the Dental Association and in preparing the Loan Forgiveness for Dentists Act, I have repealed the provisions of the Children’s Health Care Act as it relates to dentists and created a stand-alone Act which would apply just to dentists and the needs of dental providers.

The Commonwealth is home to a diverse population. In some instances, demographic and regional differences contribute to a shortage of medical professionals and, ultimately, the care they would provide. Such is the case in dentistry. Research indicates that due to a lack of dental providers, rural residents tend to use the expensive services of emergency departments. When one considers that we rank fourth in an elderly population, and many of our seniors reside in rural communities with little or sparse means of transportation, higher rates of tooth decay and tooth loss are eminent. Younger individuals who are not provided with preventative measures run the risk of future health issues. It is a fact that oral health is one indicator of overall health.

In order to improve access to oral care in all areas and particularly those in underserved communities, I am proposing a bill which would provide incentives for individuals to pursue higher education in the field of dentistry, as well as serving the people of this Commonwealth with crucial medical help.

According to the Pennsylvania Dental Association and American Dental Education Association, student debt can jeopardize new dentists’ ability to choose their preferred career path. Educational debt effects whether dental school graduates pursue specialty training, enter private practice, work in underserved communities, or enter public service, teaching or research. The cost of starting a practice can cost hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions, of dollars. Recent graduates often shy away from underserved or low population areas because of these overwhelming financial burdens and the need for a stable patient base.

The current model provides for up to $100,000 in loan repayment possibilities to dentists who agree to a two-year, full-time commitment to practice in a health professional shortage area. Dental care is desperately needed in many of these rural areas, however, the loan repayment plan does not attract many dental students as they accumulate far more student loan debt than is forgiven under the current plan.
This is why I am introducing legislation to increase the funding to $200,000 for a three-year commitment for dentist who will commit to practicing in PA areas which are desperately in need of health care providers. Furthermore, loan forgiveness is only applicable to current PA residents that attended an in-state institution. At the same time, I will be removing other limitations which are currently found in the Children’s Health Care Act. The Act will also require certain reporting requirements by the Department of Health in order to assess the program and assure it is operating as intended.

Loan repayment has proven successful in strengthening a community’s health and overall economy. It encourages dental school graduates to practice in underserved areas and improves workforce conditions by employing hygienists and assistants and others who may have difficulty finding employment.

I hope you will join me in co-sponsoring this legislation.  

Previous cosponsors:

Introduced as HB466