The ADA thanked Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-VT, in a July 24 letter for introducing the Primary Care and Health Workforce Expansion Act, which would reauthorize funding for state oral health workforce grants, oral health training programs, National Health Service Corps, teaching health center graduate medical education and community health centers.
“The state oral health workforce grants, NHSC, teaching health centers, and community health centers are important programs that support dentists and other oral health professionals providing care to those in underserved and rural communities,” said the letter signed by ADA President George R. Shepley, D.S.S., and Executive Director Raymond A. Cohlmia, D.D.S. “The Oral Health Training Program grants are also crucial tools for enhancing access to dental health services by increasing the number of oral health care providers, especially those working in underserved areas, and improving training programs for oral healthcare providers. ADA also strongly supports portions of the Oral Health Training Program that fund dental faculty loan repayment.”
Sen. Sanders’ bill would also establish a pilot program supporting community-based training of dental students at federally qualified health centers, tribal health centers and rural health centers. The ADA supports the intent of this pilot program to train dentists, dental hygienists and dental assistants in communities where there is the greatest need for an expanded dental workforce but told the Senator that “programs for existing, widely accredited dental professions should be prioritized rather than diverting very limited training funds for expensive new programs that have not proven effective at improving oral health or increasing access to care.”
Drs. Shepley and Cohlmia also told Sen. Sanders that while the Primary Care and Health Workforce Expansion Act was a good start, the ADA supports further measures that would permit federal graduate student loan borrowers to modify the interest rate on student loans to the current applicable rate, with that interest rate fixed for the life of the loan unless the borrower elects to modify it again and asked that Congress pass the Resident Education Deferred Interest Act, a bipartisan bill that would allow borrowers to qualify for interest-free deferment on their student loans while serving in a medical or dental internship or residency program.
“For many dental students and especially for those seeking to enter a specialty such as pediatric, public health or oral surgery, the savings from interest deferral could mean tens of thousands of dollars. Those kinds of savings could allow a new dental graduate to feel more comfortable pursuing an early career in underserved areas through public health programs or could be down payment for a small business dental practice in a rural community.”
Follow all of the ADA's advocacy efforts at ADA.org/Advocacy.