By Jean Klewitz
TAFP sent letters to Texas congressional lawmakers in support of legislation introduced to the House and Senate that has the potential to add 15,000 physicians to the pandemic-strained physician workforce. The letters were signed by TAFP President Javier Margo Jr., MD.
Earlier this month, AAFP put out the call for state chapters to join in the academy’s efforts to advocate for this legislation. The letters from TAFP went to Texas congressional lawmakers in the House and Senate regarding the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, H.R. 6788 and S. 3599. “This legislation is a good, incremental, step to address an immediate need presented by the COVID-19 pandemic," the letter said.
According to research by the American Medical Association, international medical graduates are twice as likely to practice primary care compared to U.S. graduates. They are also more likely to serve in rural and underserved areas. “Over the past 10 years, more than 10,000 IMGs practicing through J-1 visa waivers have worked in underserved communities,” the letter said.
The correspondence also called for the Conrad 30 J-1 visa waiver program to be reauthorized and expanded. With the Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Act legislation, H.R. 2895 and S. 948, in each state, up to 30 physicians would be allowed to stay in the U.S. if they agree to practice in underserved areas for three years. Currently resident physicians who have completed their training in the U.S. on J-1 visa waivers are required to return to their home countries for two years before they can apply for reentry.
“It is unacceptable that thousands of doctors currently working in the U.S. on temporary visas are stuck in the green card backlog, putting their futures in jeopardy and limiting their ability to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 … By increasing the number of visas available to IMGs, vulnerable populations will be better served and the overall health care system will be bolstered,” the letter said.