HHS enhances dental loan repayment program

Dental clinicians in the U.S. can get up to $60,000 to repay student loans in exchange for two years of service at healthcare facilities in medically underserved areas, according to an announcement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The goal of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) program is to help medical, dental, and mental health primary care clinicians repay student loans while serving communities.

This year's investment in the program, which includes $290 million from the Affordable Care Act, seeks to address shortages in the primary healthcare workforce and translates into greater access to healthcare for those who might otherwise go without.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently announced the launch of the new application cycle for the NHSC Loan Repayment Program. In addition, for the first time, providers can now apply to the NHSC loan repayment program online, where they will find tutorials and additional information to assist in the application process.

"As we continue to seek ways to impact both the primary care workforce shortage and the increasing debt burden on new providers, NHSC serves as a model for addressing both challenges simultaneously," Sebelius said in a press release.

The Affordable Care Act also provides more flexibility in how the NHSC administers the loan repayment program. In addition to monetary awards that are higher than previous years, the NHSC will give members the option of working half-time to fulfill their service obligation and provide credit for some teaching hours.

"By the end of FY2011, we expect that over 10,800 clinicians will be caring for more than 11 million people, more than tripling the National Health Service Corps since 2008," said NHSC Director Rebecca Spitzgo. "By 2015, with the historic funding opportunities offered by ARRA and the Affordable Care Act, the Corps will support more than 15,000 new primary care professionals."

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