FDA Foundation Disaster Relief

The Florida Dental Association Foundation has resources available for Florida dentists who have been impacted by Hurricane Michael. Emergency disaster grants for immediate personal needs such as food, water, clothing, emergency shelter, medications, etc. are available through the FDA Foundation’s Disaster Fund.

To apply: Grant amounts are determined based on completion of an application and available funds. You may access the FDA Foundation Emergency Disaster Grant Application at form.jotform.com/82874559662170

Grant Awards: FDA Foundation grants up to $1,500 per dentist are available.

If you have questions or need additional information, please contact R. Jai Gillum at rjaigillum@floridadental.org or 800.877.9922.

Additional Resources
In addition to the Emergency Disaster Assistance Grants provided by the FDA Foundation, here are additional resources that you may find helpful.

  • Claims phone numbers: fdaservices.com/billings-and-claims
  • The American Dental Association (ADA) offers support to dentists who may be affected by the approaching storm. This includes:
  • Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) resources and information is available at fema.gov/hurricane-michael.
  • Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program can provide short-term, interest-free loans up to $50,000 to small business owners located in designated disaster areas that experienced physical and/or economic damage as a result of Hurricane Michael. Please visit floridadisasterloan.org for more information on eligibility requirements and application instructions. Deadline to apply is Dec. 7, 2018.
  • U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides disaster loans and business counseling for people and business affected by Hurricane Michael. Learn more about what you can use an SBA disaster loan, which Florida counties are eligible and how to apply at sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance.
  • For information on federal disaster unemployment assistance for workers and the self-employed affected by Hurricane Michael, please visit floridajobs.org or call 800.385.3920.
  • File for D-SNAP (Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to receive short-term food assistance benefits from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. ANYONE in the affected areas is eligible, and you can use the money you save on food to replace clothes and other necessities. Visit disasterassistance.gov/get-assistance/forms-of-assistance/5769 or call 866.762.2237 for more information.
  • Helpful tip: Call your bill collectors and notify them that you are in the affected disaster area. Most will delay your bill due dates for a month or two. This includes your personal and business creditors (mortgage company, cable, electricity, water, phone, credit card companies, etc.).

Hurricane Michael

As Hurricane Michael is quickly approaching Florida, the FDA will be closed tomorrow to allow staff and their families time to prepare. Once the storm has passed, the FDA will reopen as soon as possible. Please find the following available resources:

We hope everyone remains safe!

How to Pay Off Your Dental School Loans

By Christy Rakoczy, Student Loan Hero

Dental school is really expensive, with the average debt for dental grads topping $261,000. Of course, while the shocking size of the bill might be obvious, how to tackle repayment isn’t always as clear.

The good news is, however, that by getting organized and taking a proactive approach, it’s possible to get dental school loans paid off more quickly than you might think, while still accomplishing your other financial goals. To achieve this feat, just follow these five steps.

1. Figure out exactly what you owe.

First and foremost, you need to know exactly how much your student loan debt is. You may have both federal student loans and private student loans, and may owe money to multiple lenders. You need to have a clear idea of to whom you owe and what your loan balances are, so you can decide how to pay back your loans.

You can use the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) to find out about your federal loans and obtain a copy of your credit report to identify your private student loan lenders. List your loans, the names of your lenders, the interest rate on each loan and the total balance. This will help you later because you may decide to prioritize paying higher-interest private loans before sending extra money to lower-interest federal student loans.

2. Track your spending and make a budget.

Once you know how much you have to pay, you’ll want to figure out what funds you have to accomplish the task. This means budgeting. “The easiest way to tackle debt repayment is to stick to a budget that you’re comfortable with,” advised Keri Danielski, consumer finance expert and spokeswoman for Intuit’s money management tools, Mint and Turbo.

Of course, you’ll want to get an idea of your expenses in order to make a realistic budget. “To manage your money when dealing with school debt, you need to take an honest look at where you’re spending your money,” Danielski said. “It can be surprising to see where your money is going when you see all your finances laid out.”

If you track your spending for around 30 days, you’ll identify areas where you might want to make cuts. This helps you to develop a budget that’s reasonable and based on your lifestyle, leaving you with some spare cash to put toward loan repayment and other financial goals.

3. Decide how much goes to dental school debt vs. other priorities.

Once you have a budget, you can determine how much money to allocate toward your dental school debt and other priorities. “Include at least your minimum loan payment into your monthly budget,” advised Leslie Tayne, debt resolution attorney and managing director of Tayne Law Group P.C. “Even if you’re simply paying the minimum, meeting due dates prevents late fees from racking up and your credit score from plummeting.”

Once you’ve taken care of paying the minimums, Tayne said, you could earmark some extra cash for your dental school debt. However, she cautioned that you should pay off your highest-interest debt first — which might be credit cards or personal loans, rather than student loans.

Tayne also advised not putting so much cash toward paying dental school debt that you forget other key objectives, such as saving for retirement or buying a home. “Balancing your other financial goals is important, particularly after your higher-interest loans are mostly paid off,” Tayne said. “Setting aside at least 10 percent of your income toward retirement is advisable.”

4. Look into all your repayment options.

When you owe a lot of money for dental school, you need to investigate all of the repayment options that the federal government or your private student loan lender has available. Choosing the right repayment plan ensures you pay your dental school loans within an appropriate time frame, while also keeping your monthly payments comfortable.

You have a number of choices beyond the standard 10-year repayment plan, including various income-based plans that cap your payment at a percentage of your disposable monthly income.

“Most loans will automatically enroll you for a 10-year repayment plan, which can result in incredibly high payments,” Tayne said. “Consider changing to an income-driven plan to help pay only what you can reasonably afford.”

If you’re working in a public service position, you also may be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which would allow you to have the remaining balance of your loans forgiven after 120 on-time payments. Some dentists who provide low-cost medical services in underserved areas might potentially qualify for loan forgiveness.

5. Consider consolidating or refinancing your dental school debt.

Another option that may make sense is to consolidate or refinance your dental school loans. Consolidation is done through the Department of Education and it involves taking out one big, new consolidation loan to repay other existing federal student loans. You won’t lower your interest rate because your new loan charges interest based on a weighted average of existing debt. But you can reduce the size of your payments, since your consolidation loan offers more repayment options, including longer payment terms of up to 30 years. You’ll also simplify your repayment if you have just one loan to pay instead of many.

Refinancing is another option, and in this case, you’ll get a new loan through a private lender to repay your existing federal or private debt. By comparison shopping among student loan refinance lenders, you may be able to lower the interest rate on your debt when you refinance. On the downside, you’ll give up some borrower protections that come with your federal loans, including loan forgiveness and income-based plans. Still, reducing your interest rate could be worth it, as this can reduce your monthly payment and result in your paying less interest over time.

If you owe a lot, you’re not alone.

While dentists often have particularly high loan balances, student loans are a major problem for people across many professions. In fact, Americans owe more on their student debt than on credit cards — a massive $1.48 trillion as of 2018.

It’s frustrating to cope with owing so much, but these tips can make the repayment process easier so you can move on with your life as a practicing dentist without lingering debt.

For more information, please go to studentloanhero.com.

Closing a Dental Practice: Patient Safety Considerations

By David O. Hester, FASHRM, CPHRM, Director, Department of Patient Safety and Risk Management, The Doctors Company

Dental practices undergo closure for many reasons, including dentist illness, death, relocation, or the dentist’s decision to sell, practice solo, join another group or retire. As a service to our members, the Department of Patient Safety and Risk Management of The Doctors Company provides this information to make the transition easier.

What should be done in an emergent situation?
During any change in practice, the continuity of patient care to ensure that no patient is neglected is of paramount concern. If the change is abrupt — as in the circumstance of a death — the safety measures below will assist in ensuring patient safety and continuity of care.

Review all previously scheduled appointments to determine the appropriate action. Immediately contact a dentist of the same specialty to arrange patient care or provide patients with a list of dentists of the same specialty within the area. You also should take the following steps:

  • Ensure the availability and accessibility of dental records as needed for the continuity of patient care.
  • Post a notice of closure in the office and in the local newspaper. (Contact your patient safety risk manager for a sample notice.)
  • Call all dentists who customarily refer patients to the practice and all contracted managed-care organizations, and the medical malpractice carrier.

Who should be notified if it is a non-emergent closure?
If the practice closure is non-emergent, notify the following individuals and entities:

  • all patients and legal representatives in the “active” caseload; this includes any patient seen in the past six months to three years or others the dentist considers “active,” and any patient in an acute phase of treatment
  • all peer dentists within the community
  • local dental societies
  • all third-party payers (including Medicare and Medicaid) and managed-care organizations
  • the DEA (if you are retiring or if you are moving to another state)
  • the state licensing board
  • professional associations in which you hold membership
  • your CPA or financial adviser
  • your employees
  • landlords, lenders and creditors
  • insurers that cover the practice, the employees and the physical facility

How should the notice be communicated?
Draft a letter to each patient that contains all the necessary details. The same letter can be used for everyone listed above. (Contact your patient safety risk manager for a sample letter.) It’s recommended that letters be sent with return receipt requested and that a copy of the letter and return receipt be kept. If a patient is considered high risk, send the letter certified with return receipt requested. Post a notice in a local newspaper to inform inactive patients or those who have moved away. Include directions for obtaining acute, critical or emergency care if a new dentist has not been selected by the time the practice closes.

Is there a time limit for sending the closure notice?
Yes. In a non-emergent situation, send the notice at least 60 days prior to the anticipated closure. This gives patients an opportunity to locate a new dentist and to obtain copies of their dental records without undue stress.

What other responsibilities should be undertaken by the practice that is closing?

  • Provide patients with easy access to their dental records by enclosing an authorization document in the notification letter you send to them. (Contact your patient safety risk manager for samples.) When the signed authorization is returned, you can provide copies and apply appropriate charges.
  • Provide information on where the dental records will be stored in the future, the length of time (in years) that the records will be retained, and a permanent mailing address or post office box number for all future record requests. Arrange a secure storage place for the original dental records that is safe from theft, fire, flood or other weather-related disasters.
  • Maintain the dental records in accordance with The Doctors Company’s recommendations: 10 years after the last adult visit and 28 years from birth for pediatric patients. The records should be easily accessible and retrievable.
  • DO NOT give original records to patients. The easiest method is to find another dentist to take over the practice and turn the records over to that provider or turn the records over to another dentist of the same specialty.
  • Stress the importance of continuing care for all patients. Provide information about where they can find another dentist, such as the Yellow Pages and the local or state dental society.
  • Make provisions for the completion of all dental records.
  • Place a notice of closure in your waiting room and in the local newspaper for at least one month, giving pertinent details of the closure.
  • Consult with your personal or practice attorney and the state licensing agency to ensure that you have met all regulations.
  • Destroy remaining prescription pads.
  • Keep the narcotics ledger for a minimum of two years.
  • Dispose of any drugs.

 

Contributed by The Doctors Company. For more patient safety articles and practice tips, visit www.thedoctors.com/patientsafety.

The guidelines suggested here are not rules, do not constitute legal advice, and do not ensure a successful outcome. The ultimate decision regarding the appropriateness of any treatment must be made by each health care provider in light of all circumstances prevailing in the individual situation and in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which the care is rendered.