SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The first round of applications for the new CalHealthCares statewide loan repayment program attracted more than 1,200 applications from physicians and dentists who agreed to see more of California’s 13 million Medi-Cal patients in exchange for repayment of their student loans. In all, requests totaled more than $300 million, reflecting tremendous interest in the five-year program, which launched this year. The 2019 awards will be announced by June 30. “The response to this program has been overwhelming,” said Lupe Alonzo-Diaz, president and CEO of Physicians for a Healthy California (PHC). “This shows that California’s physicians and dentists are ready to step up and improve care for low-income patients and in underserved communities across the state.” Individual awardees are eligible to receive as much as $300,000 to repay educational debt incurred in pursuit of a medical or dental degree. The program was made possible by Proposition 56 , the 2016 tobacco tax measure that provided a one-time allocation of $220 million for state loan repayment for providers who treat low-income patients. That money will be awarded over the next five years. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised 2019-20 budget proposes an additional $120 million for loan repayments. The California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) oversees the program and has contracted with PHC to administer the application and award process. “The enormous interest in this program means we will be able to repay loans for providers who are truly committed to Medi-Cal, including in specialties and areas of California that will benefit most from that commitment,” said DHCS Director Jennifer Kent. “This will help to introduce the next generation of providers to Medi-Cal and make it easier for hundreds of thousands of patients to receive the quality care they need and deserve.” The awards create economic incentives for physicians and dentists to commit to serving a substantial number of Medi-Cal beneficiaries. Many providers, coping with huge educational debt, say they can’t afford to serve large numbers of Medi-Cal patients. By reducing or removing student debt, CalHealthCares removes an obstacle from the path of physicians and dentists who are eager to practice in medically underserved areas and serve Medi-Cal beneficiaries. Awardees must agree to a patient mix that includes at least 30% Medi-Cal patients over five years. Awardees must: Have an unrestricted license and be in good standing with their licensing board Be an active enrolled Medi-Cal provider without suspensions, disbarments or revocations; or have submitted an application to DHCS to become a Medi-Cal provider Have graduated from a physician residency program and/or completed a fellowship within the past five years (on or after January 1, 2014) Have an existing educational loan debt incurred while pursuing a medical or dental degree Not currently be participating in another loan repayment program Practice in California If awarded, providers must maintain a patient caseload of 30% or more Medi-Cal beneficiaries For more information, please visit CalHealthCares.org .