This past April, hundreds of dental students from across the country met on the Hill to lobby two bills, HR 1666 Breaking Barriers to Oral Health Act of 2011 and HR 4170 Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012.
The first bill, HR1666, aims to encourage public-private partnerships at the state and local level to provide free dental services as well as oral health education to offset the many barriers that currently prevent a large proportion of low-income individuals from receiving adequate oral healthcare. Poverty, geography, lack of oral health education, language and cultural barriers are only a few of the challenges that continue to leave a large population without access to oral health care. This bill, by providing federal grant money to support large-scale community-based events such as the Connecticut Mission of Mercy, would help to counteract some of these barriers and provide momentum in a positive direction.
The second bill, HR 4170, is especially pertinent given the impending hike in student loan rates to take effect this summer. If passed, HR 4170 would alleviate the enormous financial burden of graduating dental students by rewarding consistent timely payments over the course of 10 years with outstanding loan forgiveness, capping interest rates on federal loans at 3.4 percent, and expanding loan forgiveness to graduates who enter certain public service professions. Ideally, this bill would allow dental school graduates to pursue a broader range of interests, producing more graduates that are able to treat Medicaid, CHIP, and other at-risk populations. Additionally, this bill would allow more flexibility to those graduates that choose careers in teaching, research and public health.