Report Title:

$$; Dentists; Loan Repayment Assistance


Creates a loan repayment assistance program for dentists serving underserved populations.


H.B. NO.









relating to dentists.



SECTION 1. The legislature finds that:

(1) Many dental professionals graduate with large debt levels from financing their professional education;

(2) Many Hawaii communities encounter difficulty recruiting dental providers dedicated to serving underserved populations and that Kalihi and all or most of the islands of Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, and Kauai are designated by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services as dental health professional shortage areas;

(3) Incentives to reduce the indebtedness of dental professionals will increase access to dental care for underserved populations; and

(4) The federal government matches state loan repayment programs established to create incentives to place certain health care professionals in health professional shortage areas.

The purpose of this Act is to encourage and enable eligible dental professionals to provide care to underserved populations in dental health professional shortage areas through a loan repayment assistance program supported by State and federal funds.

SECTION 2. Chapter 321, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

"321-   State dental loan repayment program; fund; established. (a) Subject to available appropriations and matching federal funds, the department shall establish and maintain a state dental loan repayment program. Under the program, the State shall agree to pay all or part of the principal, interest, and related expenses of the educational loans of each eligible dental professional; provided that the dental professional:

(1) Is licensed to practice dentistry under chapter 448;

(2) Practices in a federally designated dental health professional shortage area; and

(3) Meets at least one of the following criteria:

(A) The dental professional is employed by a federally qualified health center; or

(B) The dental professional owns or is employed by a practice that is open to new clients enrolled in the medicaid or QUEST program and offers dental services to the uninsured on a sliding fee scale or on a pro bono basis.

(b) The department shall make loan repayments available to eligible dental professionals on an annual basis. An eligible dental professional shall enter into a contract as a condition of qualifying for the loan repayment assistance, in which the dental professional agrees to provide care to underserved populations for a minimum of two years.

(c) The department may establish the total amount of annual financial assistance available under the loan repayment program to any dental professional in order to promote recruitment and retention. Any contracts for loan repayment shall include reasonable penalties for breach of contract. In the event of a breach of contract for a loan repayment entered into under this section, the department is authorized through the attorney general to seek legal remedies for the default.

(d) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to create in any dental professional a legal entitlement to any loan repayment assistance or any specific amount of assistance offered under the state dental loan repayment program.

(e) There is established a special fund to be known as the state dental loan repayment special fund into which shall be deposited all legislative appropriations and matching federal funds collected for the state dental loan repayment program. The director may use any amount of the moneys in the fund to assist dental professionals with loan repayment. The director shall submit a report to the legislature, not later than twenty days prior to the convening of each regular session, of an accounting of the special fund."

SECTION 3. The department of health shall apply for matching federal funds on behalf of an eligible dental professional and shall use those federal funds to provide all or part of the financing for loan repayment for an eligible dental professional licensed by the board of dental examiners under chapter 448.

SECTION 4. There is appropriated out of the general revenues of the State of Hawaii the sum of $50,000, or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2004-2005, for the dental professional loan assistance program; provided that the federal government matches the appropriation with $50,000 of federal funds.

SECTION 5. The sum appropriated shall be expended by the department of health for the purposes of this Act.

SECTION 6. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 7. This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2004.