The legislation, which has been endorsed by major health organizations, would allow international doctors trained in the United States to remain in the country if they practice in underserved areas 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) have reintroduced bipartisan legislation to boost the number of doctors able to work in rural America. The Conrad State 30 & Physician Access Act would allow international doctors to remain in the U.S. upon completing their residency under the condition that they practice in underserved areas, such as rural communities.

“It doesn’t make sense to force doctors that we educate and train right here in the U.S. to leave our country once their residency is over. Rural communities in Minnesota and across the country are short on doctors and they rely on the Conrad 30 program to fill the gaps,” said Senator Klobuchar. “Over the last 15 years, the Conrad 30 program has brought more than 15,000 physicians to underserved areas. Our bipartisan legislation would extend the program until 2021, allow doctors to remain in the communities they serve and improve healthcare for families across the nation.”

“We must provide opportunities for American-trained and educated physicians to remain in the country and practice in areas where there is an unmet need for quality care,” said Senator Collins. “By expanding access to health care in our rural and underserved communities, this bipartisan bill would promote healthier lives and ensure that families across the country receive the health care they deserve.”

“Each of Nevada’s 17 counties are designated as health shortage areas, with not enough medical providers to meet patient need. This causes difficulty in setting up primary care appointments and finding specialists. We must take commonsense action to address our state’s shortage of physicians,” said Senator Rosen. “I will continue to seek out solutions to address our state’s physician shortage and work to expand access to quality health care for all Nevadans.”

Currently doctors from other countries working in America on J-1 visas are required to return to their home country after their residency has ended for two years before they can apply for another visa or green card. The Conrad 30 program allows doctors to stay in the United States without having to return home if they agree to practice in an underserved area for three years. The “30” refers to the number of doctors per state that can participate in the program.

The senators’ legislation extends the Conrad 30 program until 2021, improves the process for obtaining a visa, and allows for the program to be expanded beyond 30 slots if certain thresholds are met, while protecting small states’ slots. The bill also allows the spouses of doctors to work and provides worker protections to prevent the doctors from being mistreated. A version of the bill was included as an amendment in the comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Senate in 2013.

The legislation has received the endorsement of the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, and the Association of American Medical Colleges.

“With communities across the country facing physician shortages, the Conrad 30 program ensures that international physicians, who are often educated and trained in the U.S., can continue to provide care for patients,” said American Medical Association President Barbara L. McAneny, M.D. “This timely, bipartisan legislation will strengthen the program and improve patients’ access to high-quality care that all Americans deserve, regardless of where they live.”

“The latest extension of the Conrad State 30 Program will expire later this year, which is why we urge action to extend this critical program. Without timely reauthorization, patient access to care in the many communities that have benefited from these physicians may be threatened,” said the American Hospital Association. “We also support the program improvements contained in the Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Act as part of this extension and stand ready to work with you and your colleagues to move this legislation forward.”

“As the United States faces an unprecedented shortage of up to 121,000 physicians by 2030, Conrad 30 has been a highly successful program for underserved communities to recruit both primary care and specialty physicians after they complete their medical residency training,” said the Association of American Medical Colleges. “We applaud this bipartisan reauthorization for recognizing immigrating physicians as a critical element of our nation’s health care infrastructure, and we support the expansion of Conrad 30 to help overcome hurdles that have stymied growth of the physician workforce.”