More Doctors Could be on the way to Underserved Areas of the U.S.

More Doctors Could be on the way to Underserved Areas of the U.S.

Modern Health Care reports that there is a push by members of Congress to bring more physicians to rural and underserved areas experiencing shortages.   Lawmakers have reintroduced a plan to allow more international physician candidates to attend residency in the U.S. and stay in the country after their training if they agree to work in underserved areas.

The legislation was reintroduced Thursday and would increase the number of slots in the program called Conrad 30. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) first introduced the bill in 2019 with bipartisan support, but it failed to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Minor changes were made to the bill in order to gain a broader coalition of supporters, including reauthorizing the Conrad 30 program for three year following the bills enactment, language clarifying hospital malpractice concerns, and a mandate that directs U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and HHS to keep track of how the J-1 visa program is being used by states.

The American Hospital Association and American Medical Association both support the bill, but it is unclear whether the legislation's effort to raise the number of slots for residency graduates to work in the country will effectively address workforce shortages in rural communities.

A report by the Association of American Medical Colleges shows the U.S. will have a shortage of 139,000 physicians by 2033. Rural areas are especially vulnerable. Only 11% of physicians practice in rural facilities, while 20% of the U.S. population live in rural areas. Neither of these statistics take into account the exodus of physicians from the workforce following the COVID-19 pandemic.