The House Health and Human Services Committee approved a bill March 4 that would expand a loan forgiveness program for dental hygienists and registered dental assistants.
HF3254, sponsored by Rep. Loren Solberg (DFL-Grand Rapids), would instruct the Department of Health to develop a loan forgiveness or scholarship program for dental hygienists and registered dental assistants that agree to provide dental hygiene services in an underserved or designated rural area in Minnesota.
The program would award up to three scholarships a year to internationally trained dental students who enroll in the Program for Advance Standing Students at the University of Minnesota Dental School and current dental school students. Upon graduation, the students would have to provide dental services through a nonprofit organization, community clinic or federally qualified community health center for three years. Scholarships awarded under the program would be at least $30,000 each year that the graduates provide care.
Solberg said it would be a cost-effective way of keeping dental professionals in rural areas.
Todd Tsuchiya, testifying for the Minnesota Dental Association, said the scholarship program can target dental services to patients who are most in need. Educational costs for dental students are very high and the program could help recruit students, he said.
A feasibility study would be required on the creation and use of community dental health coordinators to provide dental care access and education to specific populations in need of dental care under state programs.
A dental advisory committee would be developed to plan the implementation of statewide dental administration. The committee would include providers, representatives from private dental practices, community clinics, public health and the human services commissioner.
The bill now goes to the House Finance Committee.
A companion bill, SF3122, sponsored by Sen. John Doll (DFL-Burnsville), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.
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