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Bill Would Enable Foreign-Born Docs to Work in Underserved U.S. Areas

More foreign-born, U.S.-trained doctors would be permitted to remain in the U.S. if they practice in medically underserved areas under a bill unveiled last week in Congress.

Introduced with bipartisan support, the legislation would extend for two years the current “Conrad 30” program that allocates 30 slots to each state so foreign-born doctors can work in medically underserved areas under J-1 visas.  The program, which already exists but will soon expire, permits such physicians to remain in the U.S. for three years after their training ends to work in underserved areas.  The legislation also would establish criteria under which more than 30 such physicians can be employed in a given state.

Many private safety-net hospitals are located in and around medically underserved areas.

To learn more, see the Senate news release from the bill’s sponsors describing their proposal and why they are offering it or see the bill itself.

 

A New Approach to Treating the Underserved

Last month Congress passed the Expanding Capacity for Health Outcomes Act. The new law calls for the U.S. Department of Health and Human services to study a New Mexico project that employs distance learning to enhance the ability of the medical community to serve medically underserved areas.

Launched by the University of New Mexico in 2003, Project ECHO takes advantage of telehealth techniques to employ medical specialists who consult via videoconference with primary care providers. This approach can be employed to help patients in rural and underserved rural areas and to assist those with limited mobility who have difficulty traveling distances to specialists.

Such an approach could be beneficial for private safety-net hospitals located in federally designated medically underserved areas.

Learn more about Project ECHO in this Commonwealth Fund report.