Reps. Mucarsel-Powell and Cárdenas Introduce Legislation To Address Physician Shortage In U.S. During COVID-19 Crisis And Beyond
U.S. Reps. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26) and Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) introduced H.R. 6432, legislation to address the physician shortage in the United States by taking the first step in removing unnecessary barriers for doctors trained abroad who now reside in the U.S. The bill directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish a task force to examine the shortage situation, determine common obstacles for internationally-trained doctors to re-enter the medical field, and make recommendations to Congress.
"As we face this unprecedented medical crisis, there is an entire untapped, skilled workforce of immigrants who could help us fight this pandemic on the medical front. These foreign-educated physicians living here in America want to help us address the shortages we are seeing at our medical facilities, and we are not in a position to turn away their help," said Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell. "South Florida has a great pool of internationally-trained doctors and medical professionals who stand ready to serve during this time of crisis. We need to explore ways to engage and empower this medically-educated group so they can assist in these life-saving efforts."
"The coronavirus pandemic has opened our eyes to the major hurdles and inefficiencies in the American medical licensing and immigration systems and shined a light on the severe shortage of physicians in our country," Congressman Cárdenas. "Right now, thousands of doctors and healthcare workers are working around the clock to treat patients and contain the outbreak, but hospitals across America are woefully understaffed with more and more doctors and nurses becoming sick from the virus. We have thousands of internationally-trained physicians living in the United States who are ready and able to do the job but are unable to practice due to unnecessary regulation. By removing these barriers and allowing these doctors to practice, we not only strengthen our healthcare system but are better positioned to tackle any future health crisis we may face."
The bill directs HHS to create a task force to:
Evaluate and quantify the impact of the shortage of physicians in the U.S.
Evaluate and quantify the costs incurred by federal, state, and local governments due to the shortage of physicians.
Evaluate and quantify the number of internationally-trained physicians (individuals who received medical training abroad) in the U.S. who are not currently practicing medicine.
Determine the reasons that these individuals are not practicing medicine and investigate barriers to re-entry into the medical field.
Make recommendations to Congress to ease barriers to re-entry into the medical field for these individuals.
The U.S. was facing a severe shortage of doctors and other healthcare professionals even before the coronavirus epidemic hit. The U.S. health system already relies heavily on immigrants, who make up 17 percent of all healthcare workers and almost a quarter of all doctors. In addition, the physician shortage could expand to nearly 122,000 clinicians by 2032, including a shortfall of about 55,000 primary care physicians, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Internationally-trained doctors are more likely to practice primary care medicine, more open to working in rural and low-income areas, and are also multilingual and multicultural. According to the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), there are roughly 7,000 -- 9,000 immigrant physicians applying every year with about 53 percent overall succeeding in being placed into residency slots. Internationally-trained physicians make up a disproportionate number of residency positions filled in primary care fields and underserved areas.
Establishing a taskforce, as directed under this bill, to study the physician shortages, as well as barriers for physicians who trained abroad and now reside and want to practice medicine in the U.S., is a necessary first step to bolstering our healthcare workforce and getting Americans the much-needed healthcare services they need.