After being vetoed two years ago, there are new bills in the Florida Legislature that would establish a dental student loan forgiveness program for dentists practicing in underserved communities.
Two bills, sponsored by Republicans Sen. Aaron Bean and Rep. Colleen Burton, would offer participating students up to $50,000 per year for up to five years to help repay their student loans. Oral surgeon Gerald Bird said graduating students are tempted by big cities and high salaries, but they often want to help rural and underserved areas.
“But what prevents them is that student debt. If you have a $400,000 student debt, you cannot go into an underserved area and expect to open up a practice,” Bird said. “That debt load alone for some students could be as high as a $4,000 a month payment. ”
Similar legislation passed unanimously in both the House and Senate but Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the bill, claiming he could not support a program that does not place appropriate safeguards on taxpayer investment. Proponents of the measure claim the new bill is a remedy to the governor’s concerns.
“If you have a $400,000 student debt, you cannot go into an underserved area and expect to open up a practice.”
Among the differences, House Bill 369 and Senate Bill 764 only offer up to $50,000 in reimbursement per year, compared to the previous bill’s $100,000.
Joe Anne Hart, the chief legislative officer with the Florida Dental Association, said there was a misunderstanding with the original bill because they included accountability measures such as making sure the participant is a full-time employee at a county health department or community health center.
“If you stop participating in the program, then you forfeit receiving those funds,” Hart explained. “So, we did have accountability measures and again it was unfortunate the misunderstanding took place and it wasn’t clarified before it got to the governor’s desk.”
This legislation is a key priority of Florida’s Action for Dental Health, which is the Florida Dental Association’s initiative to improve the oral health and overall health of all Floridians.
Public News Service -/FL
by Trimmel Gomes
For More Florida News: elsemanarionewmexico.com
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