ACP Action Alert: Urge Congress to Support Policies to Help Frontline Clinicians during the COVID Pandemic!
Primary care physicians, including internal medicine specialists, are serving on the frontlines of patient care during this pandemic with increasing demands placed on them. Many physicians are being asked to come out of retirement to provide care, and there is an increasing reliance on medical graduates, both U.S. and international, to serve on the frontlines in this fight against COVID-19.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), before the Coronavirus crisis, estimates were that there would be a shortage of 21,400 to 55,200 primary care physicians by 2033. Many residents and medical students are playing a critical role in responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Residents and graduated medical students have an average debt of over $200,000, yet will not necessarily be supported by other programs that provide direct financial support to hospitals and other physicians. In addition, international medical graduates (IMGs) are currently serving on the frontlines of the U.S. health care system, both under J-1 and H-1B training visas and in other forms. These physicians serve an integral role in the delivery of health care in the United States. IMGs help to meet a critical workforce need by providing health care for underserved populations in the United States. They are often more willing than their U.S. medical graduate counterparts to practice in remote, rural areas and in poor underserved urban areas. More must be done to support their vital role in health care delivery in the United States.
Several bills have been introduced in Congress that would assist frontline clinicians as they provide care during the pandemic. These bills help with medical student loan forgiveness and support IMGs and their families by temporarily easing immigration-related restrictions so IMGs and other critical health care workers can enter the U.S. to train in internal medicine residency programs, to assist in the fight against COVID-19, and to provide a pathway to permanent residency status. ACP is urging support and passage of these bills:
- Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Reauthorization Act (S. 948): This bill allows states to sponsor foreign-trained physicians to work in medically underserved areas in exchange for a waiver of the physicians' two-year foreign residence requirement. It increases the base number of annual Conrad waivers available to each state from 30 to 35, with a demand-based sliding scale to determine the number of available waivers in future years, and includes a provision to address the current backlog in the system for physicians on J-1 visas who wish to acquire permanent residency status (green card).
- Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (S. 3599): This bill would authorize immigrant visas for health care clinicians, including up to 15,000 physicians who are eligible to practice in the United States or are already in the country on temporary work visas. The visas would provide a pathway to employment based green cards. View ACP’s letter of support to Congress on S. 3599.
- The Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act (H.R. 6720): This bill would forgive student loans for physicians and other clinicians who are on the frontlines of providing care to COVID-19 patients or helping the health care system cope with the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Action Requested: Please send a letter and urge your members of Congress to include the above bills in the next bipartisan COVID-19 relief package. We have provided a sample letter for you, which can be customized based on your own experiences. Simply follow the prompts below to submit your letter.