With the immigration reform debate going on in Congress and in the media these days, few efforts are being made to improve the physician shortage and the shortage faced in other healthcare workers like nurses and technicians. The U.S. already employs a substantial proportion of physicians and other health workers (between 20%-25%) who were educated or trained overseas, and we could employ more of them without taking jobs away from Americans. As the nation ages and more previously uninsured individuals seek treatment under the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), the health of millions of Americans may depend on the availability of more physicians and health workers from abroad.
There is already a significant shortage of physicians and healthcare workers in rural areas and inner cities. HHS has almost 6,000 primary medical health professional shortage areas which would need about 16,000 physicians to cover the medical needs of patients living in these areas. The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) estimates a shortage of over 90,000 physicians, including 45,000 primary care physicians, by the end of 2020. There just are not enough medical schools in the U.S. to meet this demand.
Granting additional temporary and permanent visas to international medical graduates would meet our national interest and help alleviate physician shortages across the country. For one, hospitals and medical clinics located in a health professionals shortage area should be granted an exemption from the H-1B cap so that they could hire physicians all year long. Also, we need to increase the green card quotas for physicians from India and China whose permanent residency cases are dragging for years on end due to per-country limits on immigrant visas. Removing barriers and allowing international medical graduates to get to the U.S. quicker will help alleviate the shortage and help many Americans receive quality healthcare no matter where they live.


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