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144.1502 Dentists loan forgiveness.

Subdivision 1. Definition. For purposes of this section, "qualifying educational loans" means government, commercial, and foundation loans for actual costs paid for tuition, reasonable education expenses, and reasonable living expenses related to the graduate or undergraduate education of a dentist.

Subd. 2. Creation of account; loan forgiveness program. A dentist education account is established in the general fund. The commissioner of health shall use money from the account to establish a loan forgiveness program for dentists who agree to care for substantial numbers of state public program participants and other low- to moderate-income uninsured patients.

Subd. 3. Eligibility. To be eligible to participate in the loan forgiveness program, a dental student must submit an application to the commissioner of health while attending a program of study designed to prepare the individual to become a licensed dentist. For fiscal year 2002, applicants may have graduated from a dentistry program in calendar year 2001. A dental student who is accepted into the loan forgiveness program must sign a contract to agree to serve a minimum three-year service obligation during which at least 25 percent of the dentist's yearly patient encounters are delivered to state public program enrollees or patients receiving sliding fee schedule discounts through a formal sliding fee schedule meeting the standards established by the United States Department of Health and Human Services under Code of Federal Regulations, title 42, section 51, chapter 303. The service obligation shall begin no later than March 31 of the first year following completion of training. If fewer applications are submitted by dental students than there are participant slots available, the commissioner may consider applications submitted by dental program graduates who are licensed dentists. Dentists selected for loan forgiveness must comply with all terms and conditions of this section.

Subd. 4. Loan forgiveness. The commissioner of health may accept applicants each year for participation in the loan forgiveness program, within the limits of available funding. Applicants are responsible for securing their own loans. The commissioner shall select participants based on their suitability for practice serving public program patients, as indicated by experience or training. The commissioner shall give preference to applicants who have attended a Minnesota dentistry educational institution and to applicants closest to completing their training. For each year that a participant meets the service obligation required under subdivision 3, up to a maximum of four years, the commissioner shall make annual disbursements directly to the participant equivalent to 15 percent of the average educational debt for indebted dental school graduates in the year closest to the applicant's selection for which information is available or the balance of the qualifying educational loans, whichever is less. Before receiving loan repayment disbursements and as requested, the participant must complete and return to the commissioner an affidavit of practice form provided by the commissioner verifying that the participant is practicing as required under subdivision 3. The participant must provide the commissioner with verification that the full amount of loan repayment disbursement received by the participant has been applied toward the designated loans. After each disbursement, verification must be received by the commissioner and approved before the next loan repayment disbursement is made. Participants who move their practice remain eligible for loan repayment as long as they practice as required under subdivision 3.

Subd. 5. Penalty for nonfulfillment. If a participant does not fulfill the service commitment under subdivision 3, the commissioner of health shall collect from the participant 100 percent of any payments made for qualified educational loans and interest at a rate established according to section 270.75. The commissioner shall deposit the money collected in the dentist education account established under subdivision 2.

Subd. 6. Suspension or waiver of obligation. Payment or service obligations cancel in the event of a participant's death. The commissioner of health may waive or suspend payment or service obligations in cases of total and permanent disability or long-term temporary disability lasting for more than two years. The commissioner shall evaluate all other requests for suspension or waivers on a case-by-case basis and may grant a waiver of all or part of the money owed as a result of a nonfulfillment penalty if emergency circumstances prevented fulfillment of the required service commitment.

HIST: 1Sp2001 c 9 art 1 s 34; 2002 c 379 art 1 s 113; 1Sp2003 c 14 art 7 s 34