The Resident Education Deferred Interest Act HR 4122 would allow students to defer interest accrual on their federal loans during residency.

According to data from the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), the average graduating orthodontic resident owes almost $428,150 in student loan debt. That’s why, on June 24, U.S. Congressman Brian Babin (Tex-36) and U.S. Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan (Pa-06) introduced the Resident Education Deferred Interest Act (REDI Act) HR 4122 to address the growing doctor shortage, help make medical education more affordable, and boost healthcare outcomes across the United States.

There is no federal student loan policy currently in place to protect a dental or medical professional’s ability to repay student loans. This, according to the AAO, has resulted in policies that compound the student loan crisis and undermine a federal goal to expand the number of medical professionals in the United States. The REDI Act would allow dental and medical students to defer interest accrual on their federal loans during residency.

The AAO released a statement in support of legislation on June 30. The association expressed its concern about the burden of student loan debt on its current AAO members and worries if (based on current policies) future members—particularly those from underserved communities, will be discouraged from entering the orthodontic profession.

The American Dental Association, Organized Dentistry Coalition, and several other healthcare organizations also support the REDI Act. In a June 29 letter to Reps Babin and Houlahan, the ADA, AAO, and other dental and healthcare groups — led by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons — thanked the lawmakers for re-introducing HR 4122 and noted that passing the legislation is an important part of student loan repayment reform.

“As you are aware, the cost of graduate-level medical and dental education is substantial for the vast majority of students,” the groups wrote. “Further, those who undertake several years of residency with very low pay are often unable to begin repaying student debt immediately. As a result, they qualify to have their payments halted during residency through deferment or forbearance processes, but they continue to accrue interest that is added to their balance.”

Passing this legislation “is an important part of student loan repayment reform,” the letter concluded. “This bill would prevent medical and dental residents from being punished during residency and save them thousands of dollars in interest. Providing interest accrual relief during residency also would make the concepts of opening practices in underserved areas or entering faculty or research more attractive and affordable to residents.”

The ADA also sent a letter supporting the bill.