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Ohio Physician Loan Repayment Program FAQs

What is the purpose of Ohio’s loan repayment programs? 

Loan repayment programs for certain health care professionals were created to assist communities and practice sites located in underserved areas of Ohio to recruit primary care, dental and/or mental health professionals to provide services to the residents of the area. In addition, the programs assist primary care physicians, mental health providers and dental professionals who are dedicated to working with the underserved in Ohio to repay health professional training loans. Retention of providers in the underserved community is the primary goal of the programs. 

Who is eligible to apply for loan repayment? 

Ohio Physician Loan Repayment Program (OPLRP) applicants must either be in current practice or in the final year of residency or fellowship training at the time of application. If an applicant has an existing obligation to a government or other entity, the obligation must be met prior to beginning a loan repayment contract. The applicant’s practice site must be located in a HPSA or Health Resource Shortage Area. A physician may work full-time, defined as 40 hours per week, or part-time, defined as 20 to 39 hours per week, at an approved practice site. For full-time primary care physicians, no more than eight hours can be spent for hospital coverage and practice administration. Part-time physicians can spend no more than four hours in coverage and administration. OB/GYNs are allowed additional hospital hours. 

Allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) physicians specializing in family medicine, general pediatrics, adolescent medicine, general internal medicine, internal medicine/pediatrics, geriatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, general psychiatry, child/adolescent psychiatry and geriatric psychiatry are considered primary care physicians for purposes of this program. 

Are practice sites required to meet specific criteria?

Yes. All loan repayment programs require practice sites to accept Medicaid and to serve all patients regardless of inability to pay. The exception to this requirement is free clinics. Other requirements may apply, depending on the program. As part of the loan repayment application, an Employer Agreement, completed by an official of the employing agency, must be included.

For purposes of Ohio’s loan repayment programs, free clinics are considered to be health resource shortage areas regardless of whether the clinic is located in a geographic area that is designated as a health resource shortage area. Practitioners serving in free clinics are eligible to participate in Ohio’s loan repayment programs. 

A free clinic is defined as, “A nonprofit organization exempt from federal income taxation under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, or a program component of a nonprofit organization, to which both of the following apply:
  • (a) Its primary mission is to provide health care services for free or for a minimal administrative fee to individuals with limited resources; and 
  • (b) It facilitates the delivery of health care services through the use of volunteer health care professionals and voluntary care networks (in addition to any paid staff).
Practice sites must assure that those selected for loan repayment work the appropriate number of hours and adhere to program requirements. In addition, practice sites must agree to complete semi-annual reports providing data on patients and patient visits by payer source.

What are the benefits of the loan repayment programs?

Loan repayment programs enable a health professional to work in an underserved community while receiving assistance with health professional training debt. Selected full-time applicants may receive up to $25,000 per year for an initial two-year contract. Participants who retain eligibility and wish to continue with the program may receive up to $35,000 for years three and four. Part-time participants may receive up to half of the full-time amounts. Payments are tax-exempt. 

How long is the loan repayment commitment?

An initial contract is two years. Practitioners who wish to continue in the program after meeting all contractual obligations of the initial contract may renew the contract for up to two additional one-year terms. The minimum commitment for the program is two years and the maximum length of time a practitioner can participate is four years. 

What happens if I receive loan repayment but then change my mind or relocate before the contract ends? 

Failure to complete the service obligation results in a significant penalty the provider must repay to the State of Ohio. Depending upon the funding source used to pay a contract, the penalty may be a) three times the amount the department agreed to repay, or b) a sum equal to the amount paid to or on behalf of the practitioner, plus $7,500 for each month of service remaining in the contract term, plus interest at the prevailing rate. The practitioner will be responsible to pay whichever amount is greater. Any amount that ODH is entitled to recover shall be paid within one year from the date that ODH determines that the practitioner has breached the contract. 

The department may temporarily suspend a participant’s contract in the event that personal or medical circumstances prohibit the individual from serving for a temporary situation. For example, maternity leave or other medical situations may be unavoidable and/or unforeseen and may require the department to suspend a practitioner’s contract and later extend the contract term. On rare occasions, practice sites have closed or practitioners have been terminated from their positions. In these situations, the department will work the practitioner to find an eligible practice site in order to complete the service obligation. Practitioners may not initiate transfers to other practice sites without the expressed approval of the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). Doing so may result in a determination by the department that the practitioner has failed to complete his or her service obligation and repayment of the penalty for default. 

How are loan payments made?

Payments are made directly to the loan repayment participants. Participants submit an Invoice for Payment to ODH to generate payments. Within 45 days after receiving the payment, loan repayment participants must complete and submit to the Ohio Department of Health the Payment Verification, along with required loan balance statements. This confirms that the payments received from ODH were applied toward the outstanding qualifying loans. 

When are payments made?

The first payment is usually made within six to eight weeks of the execution of the contract. Subsequent payments, if applicable, are made approximately one year later. ODH cannot issue payment until the practitioner submits the Invoice for Payment.

Are there other obligations by the practitioner or the site?

Semi-Annual Patient Activity Reports, providing the number of patients and patient visits by payer type (e.g. private insurance, Medicaid, sliding fee scale discount, self-pay full fee, no payment, and other payment types) are required. Numbers are reported for both the practice site and for the participating practitioner. 

Changes to approved practice site(s) or the addition of practice sites must receive prior approval from ODH. Both the practitioner and practice site must contact ODH immediately to discuss any desired changes in practice sites. 

What is contained in the loan repayment contract offered to those selected to receive an award?

Loan repayment contracts are based on standard language used by ODH, but also contain provisions specific to the individual loan repayment program (e.g. ODHLRP, ODLRP, OPLRP). Contracts outline the obligations of the practitioner receiving a loan repayment award and the obligations of the ODH. Included among those obligations are the practice site name and address, minimum hours per week, program definitions, reporting requirements, contract start and end dates, amount of loan repayment, practitioner accountability and certifications, contract default provisions, and contract termination and/or waiver of obligations. 

Is an applicant who currently receives loan repayment from the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) eligible to apply for the state loan repayment program?

Applicants may apply for Ohio loan repayment programs while under contract with the NHSC, but the obligation must be completed prior to receiving a loan repayment contract with the state. 

Why do applicants need to complete an IRS Form W 9 and State Supplier Information Form?

Applicants selected for the program must be registered in Ohio’s vendor system in order to have a loan repayment contract established and to receive payments. Completing these forms during the application process allows adequate time for the state to process the documents. 

What is the National Student Loan Data System?

National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) can be accessed on the NSLDS website. The NSLDS is the U.S. Department of Education’s central database for student aid. To retrieve your loan information, follow the steps below:

  • Log into the NSLDS site (create Free Application For Student Aid ID, if needed)
  • Print Loan Summary page
  • Click on the loan number of each loan and print the loan details specific to that loan
  • Include the information for all loans with your Ohio Loan Repayment Application