Washington, D.C. - Today, Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-06) and Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-06) introduced the Grant Residency for Additional Doctors (GRAD) Act of 2021 to address the physician shortage facing rural America.
"The United States continues to face a deficit of physicians, with rural hospitals shouldering some of the heaviest burdens associated with this shortfall. As we seek to increase the number of physicians domestically, medical professionals from around the world have historically been able to help address doctor shortages in rural areas, utilizing the J-1 visa process to carry out their medical residencies in the American health system." said Emmer.
"Even before the outbreak of the Coronavirus, our rural communities had difficulty attracting and retaining qualified physicians. The GRAD Act is a nonpartisan way to keep our hospitals staffed while addressing bureaucratic delays in the J-1 program," Emmer concluded.
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, American hospitals were experiencing a shortage of qualified physicians—a problem only made worse by the outbreak. Reports by the Association of American Medical Colleges indicate that by 2033, the United States will face a shortage of physicians between 54,100 and 139,000. These shortfalls are expected to increase for both primary care physicians and specialists as they experience burnout caused by the pandemic.
Many underserved and rural communities rely on foreign doctors to fill positions in hospitals, and those medical professionals rely on J-1 visas for access to work in the United States health care system. A J-1 visa is a temporary, nonimmigrant visa that international medical students and physicians use to work in U.S.-based medical residency programs. Currently, foreign physicians scheduled to serve their residencies in American hospitals are encountering extremely long processing delays in obtaining J-1 visas from U.S. embassies in their countries. Addressing these delays will help to stave off the severe doctor shortage America is currently facing.
The GRAD Act of 2021 would direct the Department of State to establish a dedicated staff position within the department to process J-1 visa applications during times of increased demand. It would also provide training to relevant foreign service and consular officers charged with reviewing these visa applications to recognize the domestic need for such positions and work to eliminate any bureaucratic hurdles to processing.