|Sustaining rural community access to physicians is vital|
If not for the Conrad J-1 visa program, a federal program which provides all states with visa waivers for international physicians, “more of our rural health care facilities all across the country would be closed today,” Center for Rural Health assistant professor Mary Amundson said in testimony provided last week to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law.
In her invited testimony, Amundson explained the current state of access to rural health care, citing statistics on declining rates of medical students choosing family medicine and warnings of physician shortages. Although there is a call from the Association of American Medical Colleges to increase medical school class size, “this will take time which our fragile rural health care systems don’t have; our health care systems simply won’t survive. Immediate policy solutions to the physician shortage problem are needed today.”
Amundson explains the importance of the Conrad State 30 Improvement Act, which would address necessary changes due to a decrease in the number of physicians entering training on the J-1 Visa. It includes such reform measures as making the program permanent, providing increased flexibility for states to manage the program, and creating a mechanism that allows the 30 doctor per state cap to increase under certain conditions.
“This is a very successful program and it is helping to address our needs as a nation to improve access to care among the nation’s most vulnerable populations,” Amundson testified. “The amendments in the Conrad State 30 Improvement Act are important to further improve the program and ensure that physicians are available to serve the nation’s underserved.”
-- Wendy Opsahl, Communications Coordinator, Center for Rural Health, email@example.com, 777-0871