(Washington, DC: May 6, 2017) The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, (AAPI) brought to the fore some of the major concerns of the Indian-American community, and particularly those affecting the physicians and their patients during AAPI’s Legislative Day on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., on May 3rd, 2017.
Attended by nearly 30 Congressmen and women from both the major political parties, the event held at the Rayburn House Office Building, had a historic 100 representatives of AAPI in attendance at the annual event, highlighting healthcare, Green Card, physician-patient health relationship, hate crimes, and insurance issues. In a show of support for AAPI, all the four Indian-American House members, Reps. Ami Bera, D-California, Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington; Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois; and Ro Khanna, D-California, addressed the AAPI delegates and listened to their concerns and promised support.
A White Paper outlining demands and concerns was submitted to lawmakers who addressed the delegates. Some of the issues outlined in the White Paper included, increasing residency slots; passing hate crime laws; the Green Card backlog; reforms to the Stark Law to improve physician-patient health care; and the ability of insurance companies to sell health plans across state lines.
“We are pleased with the enormous turnout of both AAPI members and the showing of bipartisan members of Congress at this year’s Legislative Day,” said Dr. Ajay Lodha, AAPI President. “It is a testament to the strength of AAPI’s reputation as strong leaders, with our physicians proudly serving as health care providers in all 50 states. With this event, we are building a strong foundation for future advocacy and legislative successes at both the federal and state level,” said Lodha.
“This immensely successful event, including our partnership with the Indian Embassy, has showcased AAPI’s strength relationship building and maintaining ties with our elected officials,” said Dr. Sampat Shivangi, Legislative Committee Chairman. “From our work combating hate crimes, to supporting reforms to the legal immigration process, AAPI continues to serve as a shining example of leadership among Indian American community organizations,” said Shivangi.
AAPI members would like to see the Green Card backlog addressed, which it says has adversely impacted the Indian American community. So the focus was on “The Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017, or House Resolution 392, a measure which has already garnered more than 200 signatures from members of Congress and seeks to remove the 7 percent cap on Green Cards on every country regardless of their size. It “will address many of the concerns facing the Indian American community,” AAPI said in its list of demands.
According to AAPI, there is an ongoing physician shortage, which affects the quality of care provided to American patients. There are patients who face lengthy delays in various specialties, a situation which will worsen over time. Legislation was introduced in previous sessions of Congress that would add 15,000 residency slots, training up to 45,000 more physicians, AAPI points out in its White Paper. “By adding more residency positions today, Congress can train more physicians to treat patients in the future,” AAPI stated.
The bipartisan members of Congress discussed ways to reform health care delivery, to ensure its cost-effectiveness, and the negative effects of defensive medicine, which has driven up the cost of health care. Tort reform and immigration reform was also discussed, with AAPI members expressing their viewpoints. Additionally, many AAPI members expressed concerns over legislation that would prohibit international medical graduates from securing residency positions in the U.S.
AAPI members told the gathering of both Republican and Democratic congressmen how important it was to increase the number of residency positions to address the upcoming physician shortage. This includes providing opportunities for all qualified doctors of Indian origin to secure residency slots and the opportunity to become fully trained to practice medicine.
On the hate crime issue and H-1B, Rep. Jayapal told the gathering she had been an immigration attorney for 15 years and would be trying her best to push through legislation relating to both issues. AAPI sent a letter to Kansas legislators calling on them to pass a hate crimes law named in honor of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, the young Indian techie shot to death by a white man in a bar in Olathe, Kansas.
More than 50 AAPI members gathered for dinner at the Bombay Club the night before the legislative fly-in, which was organized by Dr. Sudhir Sekhsaria, the past president of AAPI’s local chapter, the Greater Washington AAPI chapter. The Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. held a reception for AAPI’s delegation and for federal and state lawmakers and other prominent members of the Indian-American community including activists May 3 evening. The organization also recognized the four Indian-American lawmakers, as well as Rep. Gabbard, with appreciation awards.
The AAPI members, led by Dr. Lodha and Shivangi, met Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Greg Harper, R-Mississippi, in part to press AAPI’s case to bring Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, to address the June annual convention of the organization.
AAPI’s lobbying efforts on some of the issues affecting the broader Indian American community and other immigrant groups is also a testament to its growth and reach. Being one of the oldest Indian American organizations, it’s also among the most influential, as was evident from the number of members of Congress who took time out of their busy schedule to address the group.
The growing influence of doctors of Indian heritage is evident, as increasingly physicians of Indian origin hold critical positions in the healthcare, academic, research and administrative positions across the nation. With their hard work, dedication, compassion, and skills, they have thus carved an enviable niche in the American medical community. AAPI’s role has come to be recognized as vital among members and among lawmakers.
“We had a very fruitful discussion and we are very hopeful that Congress will act on the issues raised in our white paper,” Dr. Lodha, President of AAPI, summarized the day long event and the impact it has for the future of the growing Indian American community, healthcare providers and the healthcare industry. For more information on AAPI and its programs and initiatives, please visit: www.aapiusa.org