“AAPI supports the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act S.3599/ HR6788, introduced by Senators Durbin, Perdue, Young, Coons addressing Shortage of doctors, nurses, and urges the Congress to approve the bill and allow the thousands of immigrant Indian American doctors on green card backlog to bolster the American health care system and extend their patient care whole-heartedly without disruption,” said Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPI.
Dr. Reddy was responding to the Bill. the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, introduced by U.S. Senate Democrats Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, along with Senators David Perdue (R-GA), Todd Young (R-IN), and Chris Coons (D-DE), which recaptures 15,000 green cards to provide a temporary stopgap to quickly address our nation’s shortage of doctors. This legislation will help underserved communities with physician shortage to recruit more physicians and thus effectively extend health care coverage.
The Health care Resilience Act S.3599/ HR6788 would recapture 25,000 unused immigrant visas for nurses and 15,000 unused immigrant visas for Physicians. This would help the American health care force to mobilize the medical professionals to the areas of health care needs.
Healthcare continues to be at the center of the national debate, especially in the context of the global Corona Virus pandemic affecting millions of people in the United States. This deadly virus has claimed lives of many healthcare professionals who are in the frontline caring for the hundreds of thousands of patients affected by this disease.
An estimated 800,000 legal immigrants who are working in the United States are waiting for green card. This unprecedented backlog in employment-based immigration has fueled a bitter policy debate but has been largely ignored by the Congress. Most of those waiting for employment-based green cards which would allow them to stay in the United States are of Indian origin. The backlog among this group is so acute that an Indian national who applies for a green card now can expect to wait up to 50 years to obtain it. The wait is largely due to the annual per-country quota immigration law, which has been unchanged since 1990.
This heightened demand for physicians will only continue to grow, and will soon outpace supply leading to a projected shortfall of nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032. Thus, recapturing the unused visas/Green cards that are available for International Medical Graduates is critical to addressing this mounting shortage of physicians.
In a detailed report on Green Card delays affecting Indian American physicians, the Green Card Backlog Task Force by AAPI had pointed out that there are over 10,000 Physicians waiting for Green Card for decades. AAPI members would like to see the Green Card backlog addressed, which it says has adversely impacted the Indian American community. During their annual Legislative Day on Capitol Hill, they have stressed the need for bipartisan efforts in passing the Health care Resilience Act, which will recapture and provide Green Cards for physicians serving in America’s under-served and rural communities.
“Consider this: one-sixth of our health care workforce is foreign-born. Immigrant nurses and doctors play a vital role in our health care system, and their contributions are now more crucial than ever. Where would we be in this pandemic without them? It is unacceptable that thousands of doctors currently working in the U.S. on temporary visas are stuck in the green card backlog, putting their futures in jeopardy and limiting their ability to contribute to the fight against COVID-19,” said Sen. Durbin.
“This bipartisan, targeted, and timely legislation will strengthen our health care workforce and improve health care access for Americans in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support these vital health care workers,” the Senator from Illinois pointed out.
“The growing shortage of doctors and nurses over the past decade has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis,” said Sen. Perdue. “Fortunately, there are thousands of trained health professionals who want to practice in the United States. This proposal would simply reallocate a limited number of unused visas from prior years for doctors and nurses who are qualified to help in our fight against COVID-19. This shortage is critical and needs immediate attention so that our healthcare facilities are not overwhelmed in this crisis.”
Specifically, the Senators’ proposal:
- Recaptures unused visas/green cards from previous fiscal years for doctors, nurses, and their families
- Exempts these visas/green cards from country caps
- Requires employers to attest that immigrants from overseas who receive these visas will not displace an American worker
- Requires the Department of Homeland Security and State Department to expedite the processing of recaptured visas
- Limits the filing period for recaptured visas to 90 days following the termination of the President’s COVID-19 emergency declaration
“AAPI joins other similar organizations including American Medical Association, Illinois Health and Hospital Association, American Hospital Association, American Organization for Nursing Leadership, Physicians for American Healthcare Access, American Immigration Lawyers Association, and National Immigration Forum, that have come in support of The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act,” said Dr. Sampat Shivangi, Chair of AAPI’s Legislative Committee.
Dr. Seema Arora, Chair of the Board of Trustees of AAPI, urged the members of Congress to include physicians graduating from U.S. residency programs for Green Cards in the comprehensive immigration reform bill. “Physicians graduating from accredited U.S. residency programs should also receive similar treatment. Such a proposal would enable more physicians to be eligible for Green Cards and address the ongoing physician shortage,” she said.
Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalgadda, President-Elect of AAPI, said, “AAPI has once again succeeded in bringing to the forefront many important health care issues facing the physician community and raising our voice unitedly before the US Congress members.”
“AAPI welcomes this bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Perdue, Durbin, Young and Coons; the bill would help address the critical healthcare shortage in the United States, a weakness that has been evident during the COVID-19 national emergency,” said Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Vice President of AAPI.
“The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act recognizes the importance and the need of immigrant doctors, nurses and their families. At this critical time, addressing shortages in the health care workforce is imperative. By ensuring unused visas do not go waste, the bill will help doctors, nurses and their families, who have been waiting in line, immigrate sooner,” said Dr. Raghuveer Kurra, Chair of AAPI Committee on Green Card Backlog.
“Thousands of Indian-American Physicians have been affected by the backlog for Green Card. This negatively impacted their ability to work and provide the much-needed health care services for the people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic across the nation,” said Dr. Ram Sanjeev Alur, Co-Chair, AAPI Committee on Green Card Backlog. “These Indian physicians constitute less than one percent of the country’s population, but account for nine percent of the American physicians. One out of every seven doctors serving in the US health care system is of Indian heritage. These Indian origin Physicians provide medical care to over 40 million American population living in rural and underserved areas,” added Dr. Pavan Panchavati, Co-Chair, AAPI Committee on Green Card Backlog.
Dr. Ravi Kolli, Secretary of AAPI, said, “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. was already facing a serious shortage of physicians largely due to growth, aging of the population and the impending retirements of many physicians.” Raj Bhayani, Treasurer of AAPI, pointed out, “This shortage was dramatically highlighted by the lack of physicians in certain key areas during the COVID-19 pandemic which forced states to recall retired physicians, expand physicians’ scope of practice, and amend out of state licensing laws.”
AAPI has recently heard calls from New York , New Jersey and California for physicians from out of state to help them care for patients, and there will be more areas of need in these states and also nationally who certainly will need additional physician force for staffing their hospitals, fever clinics, COVID care centers and Emergency rooms in near future.
According to Dr. Suresh Reddy, “AAPI has been consistent in bringing many important health care issues faced by the physician community and raising our voice unitedly before the US Congress members. we have been able to discover our own potential and have been playing an important role in shaping the health of each patient with a focus on health maintenance rather than disease intervention. AAPI is also instrumental in crafting the health care delivery in the most efficient manner and has been striving for equality in health care globally.”
For more details on AAPI and its legislative agenda, please visit: www.aapiusa.org