Cole, Bacon unveil bipartisan bill to bolster nation’s healthcare workforce

U.S. Reps. Tom Cole (R-OK) and Don Bacon (R-NE) on May 8 introduced the bipartisan Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act to strengthen the healthcare workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we continue to monitor and combat the spread of COVID-19 and cautiously prepare for a potential second wave of cases, it is vital that steps are taken to ensure all communities, including rural areas, are well equipped and ready to face down this terrible disease,” Rep. Cole said. “I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important legislation.”

Rep. Cole and Rep. Bacon are original cosponsors of H.R. 6788, which is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), to grant immigrant visas to foreign-born doctors currently serving among the American healthcare workforce and additional visas to enable foreign-born nurses to provide care in the United States, according to bill summary provided by Rep. Cole’s office.

“This commonsense legislation will allow those healthcare workers who are legally here to continue to serve our communities when they are needed most during this pandemic,” said Rep. Bacon. “I’m thankful to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan legislation that will simply reallocate already authorized visas that are not being used.”

Specifically, the bill would reallocate visas previously authorized by Congress that have not currently been used, according to the summary, which noted that of the unused visas, 15,000 visas would be reallocated for foreign-born physicians and 25,000 visas for foreign-born nurses.

Individuals approved for visas under H.R. 6788 still would be required to meet the licensing requirements, pay required filing fees and national security and criminal history background checks before they are eligible to receive recaptured green cards, the summary says.

The American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Organization for Nursing Leadership, America’s Essential Hospitals, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are among the supporters of H.R. 6788, which has been referred for consideration to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

The companion bill, the same-named S. 3599, was introduced on May 5 by U.S. Sens. Todd Young (R-IN), David Perdue (R-GA), and Dick Durbin (D-IL), among others.