Bipartisan legislation to address physician shortages introduced in Congress

April 27, 2017
Area(s) of Interest: Physician Workforce Professional Development & Education 

Legislation designed to increase the number of physicians providing care in underserved and rural areas was introduced in Congress this week by California Congressman Darrel Issa (R-San Diego). The bill, supported by the California Medical Association (CMA), would extend and expand the Conrad 30 Waiver program that allows physicians who come to the United States for training to remain in the country upon completing their medical residency if they agree to practice in underserved areas for at least three years. It would increase the number of Conrad 30 waiver physicians in California from 30 to 45 per year. 


“At a time when so many communities both here in California and across the country are facing shortages of much-needed physicians, it’s never been more important to provide opportunities for top-notch physicians from around the world to stay here in America and help fill these needs," said Congressman Issa. "If signed into law, the bill would be a big win for small and rural areas, underserved communities within larger states like California, and the patients who will have improved access to world-class care where they live."



The U.S. is projected to have 100,000 fewer physicians than the country needs by 2030. California is already facing shortages, with 23 of California’s 58 counties falling below the minimum required primary care physician-to-population ratio.



Under current law, international medical students using a J-1 visa to study in the United States are required to return to their country of origin for two years upon completion of their medical residency before they are eligible to apply for a green card or visa. The Conrad 30 program, which will expire April 28 without congressional action, waives this return requirement for a limited number of new physicians each year who agree to work for three years in an underserved area of the U.S. The bill Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Act would reauthorize the program until 2021.



The legislation also expands the program by providing a path to increase the number of waivers available to states, allowing the program to expand beyond the current allotment of 30 waivers per state if certain requirements are met. CMA strongly supports this bill. Extending the Conrad 30 visa waiver program will help to address the acute physician shortages and access to care problems in California’s underserved areas. CMA applauds Congressman Issa’s efforts to continue and expand the program.   



“The American medical education system attracts top international talent and produces the best-trained graduates in the world. It makes no sense to force these highly-skilled new doctors out of the country at a time when many of our communities struggle to attract medical professionals," said Congressman Brad Schneider (D-IL), who is cosponsoring the bill. "Extending the Conrad 30 visa waiver program is a commonsense step toward ensuring all Americans have access to quality health care providers.”



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