Reps. Schneider, Bacon, and Finkenauer Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Address Physician Shortages
Today, U.S. Representatives Brad Schneider (D-IL), Don Bacon (R-NE), and Abby Finkenauer (D-IA) introduced bipartisan legislation to help increase the number of doctors available to work in medically-underserved communities.
H.R. 2895, the Conrad State 30 & Physician Access Act, would extend and expand the Conrad 30 Waiver program which allows foreign doctors studying in the United States to obtain a visa following medical residency if they practice in a medically-underserved area for at least three years. Under current law, foreign doctors on J-1 educational visas must return to their home country upon completing medical residency and wait two years before they can apply for a new visa or green card.
According to estimates, the United States could face a shortage of as many as 120,000 physicians by 2030.
“The American medical education system attracts top international talent and produces the best-trained graduates in the world,” said Congressman Brad Schneider. “It makes no sense and is, in fact, irresponsible to force these highly-skilled new doctors out of the country at a time when many of our communities struggle to meet the demand for qualified physicians. Extending the Conrad 30 visa waiver program is a commonsense step that both parties can support to help more Americans have access to quality health care practitioners in their communities.”
“There are many communities in America struggling to attract talented physicians, yet we have many skilled people from around the world who wish to study here and stay to work,” said Congressman Don Bacon. “An extension of the Conrad 30 visa program will help those communities attract qualified physicians at a time when they are sorely needed. I’m thankful to work with my friends on the other side of the aisle to get this legislation to the floor.”
“Iowans are feeling the effects of the physician shortage, especially in our rural communities,” said Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer. “I’ve heard from communities and providers across our state who say we need this common-sense, bipartisan solution. We invest time and resources training physicians from all over the world – we should make sure that we’re able to retain that talent and have them serve the Iowa communities that need them.”
The Conrad State 30 & Physician Access Act extends the program until 2021. In addition, the legislation makes improvements to the process for obtaining a visa, bolsters important workplace protections for recipients, and provides a path to increase the number of waivers available to states beyond the current allotment of 30 waivers per state if certain requirements are met. Further, the bill also allows the spouses of doctors to work in the United States.
The Conrad State 30 & Physician Access Act has been endorsed by the American Hospital Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the National Rural Health Association.
“The latest extension of the Conrad State 30 Program will expire later this year, which is why we urge action to extend this critical program. Without timely reauthorization, patient access to care in the many communities that have benefited from these physicians may be threatened,” said the American Hospital Association. “We also support the program improvements contained in the Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Act as part of this extension and stand ready to work with you and your colleagues to move this legislation forward.”
“As the United States faces an unprecedented shortage of up to 121,000 physicians by 2030, Conrad 30 has been a highly successful program for underserved communities to recruit both primary care and specialty physicians after they complete their medical residency training,” said the Association of American Medical Colleges. “We applaud this bipartisan reauthorization for recognizing immigrating physicians as a critical element of our nation’s health care infrastructure, and we support the expansion of Conrad 30 to help overcome hurdles that have stymied growth of the physician workforce.”
“Many rural communities struggle to recruit and maintain a sufficient workforce to care for the vulnerable patient population they serve,” said Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Association. “The Conrad 30 program has served an important role in bringing in physicians to care for patients in underserved rural communities. This bipartisan bill extends and expands the program to provide one more option for these small communities to keep essential, high-quality care local.”
A Senate version of the bill was introduced in March 2019 by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).