Chairman Nadler Statement for Subcommittee Hearing on “The Role of Immigrant Physicians in the U.S. Healthcare System”
February 15, 2022.
Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during a Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship hearing entitled, “Is There a Doctor in the House? The Role of Immigrant Physicians in the U.S. Healthcare System:”
“Our country has long relied on foreign-educated physicians to supplement the domestic physician workforce. Today’s hearing invites us to explore the role that immigrant physicians play in the provision of healthcare in the United States, including the essential services they provide to Americans in rural and medically underserved areas.
“I also appreciate the opportunity to examine how our broken immigration system has made it difficult for such physicians to remain in our communities and continue to provide critical care to those in need.
“Today, approximately 200,000 foreign medical graduates work as physicians in the United States. Immigrants account for more than 50 percent of physicians practicing geriatric medicine, approximately 40 percent of those practicing critical care and internal medicine, and nearly one quarter of those practicing general medicine.
“Even before the COVID-19 crisis, experts were projecting that our country would experience a significant shortage of physicians in the near future. Due to the aging population and other factors, the American Association of Medical Colleges estimated a shortage of nearly 140,000 physicians by 2033.
“The COVID-19 outbreak has brought this problem into sharper focus. The pandemic has taken an enormous mental and physical toll on physicians in the United States, exacerbating existing shortages and making these projections even more dire.
“In response, governors throughout the country—including in my home State of New York—implemented emergency measures, such as relaxing licensing requirements, to increase the pool of available of physicians. Yet, many States still struggle to meet the demand for care.
“Unfortunately, our outdated immigration system only adds to the problem. Although foreign-educated physicians can come to the United States to complete their medical training, their temporary visa options are limited. Without a visa classification that is designed specifically for them, foreign physicians are forced to deal with the challenges of a flawed system that was designed decades ago.
“After completing their training, if they want to stay here permanently—and continue to treat patients in their communities— they must overcome additional obstacles.
“For example, the Conrad 30 program, which is intended to facilitate the placement of immigrant physicians in underserved areas by shortening the visa application process, only allows 30 such physicians in each State to benefit from this program.
“If a physician is fortunate enough to be allotted one of those visas, many must then wait for years—and often decades—for an immigrant visa to become available.
“Over the years, various bills have been introduced that would improve the physician immigration system. Some would exempt certain physicians from the numerical limits on immigrant visas. Others would remove or ease the current barriers while streamlining and improving processing. We should explore these and other options.
“We have an obligation to ensure that all Americans have ready access to quality medical care today and in the future. To do that, we must ensure that our immigration system facilitates—rather than blocks—the admission of the best doctors from around the world.
“I want to thank Chair Lofgren and Ms. Scanlon for holding this valuable hearing, and I thank all of today’s witnesses for participating in this important discussion.
“I yield back the balance of my time.”
U.S. House Committee On The Judiciary:
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