A bill establishing the “Dental Student Loan Repayment Program” received unanimous votes in the House and Senate Tuesday and is now ready for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature.
HB 843 would provide up to $50,000 in loan repayments per dentist per year if they opt to work in a public health program that serves Medicaid recipients and other low-income patients medically underserved areas.
It also directs the state Department of Health to set up a “Donated Dental Services Program,” which will create a network of volunteer dentists to treat needy patients who cannot afford dental work but are ineligible for public assistance.
The Florida Dental Association, which backed the measure, lauded the Legislature for passing the bill Tuesday afternoon.
“This vote is a significant step forward in providing immediate solutions to improve oral health, and resulting overall health, for all Floridians, particularly in our state’s underserved and rural areas,” the association said in a news release.
“This legislation would help bring dentists to areas where they are needed by re-establishing a dental student loan repayment program for dentists who practice as Medicaid providers serving low-income patients in designated rural and underserved areas.
The association noted that Florida is one of only five states without a dental student loan repayment program, adding “This program could be implemented in six months, and in five years, 10 participating dentists would be able to treat at least one million Floridians.”
The bill has an effective date of July 1, 2019.