Collins’ bipartisan bill extends stay for stateside-trained foreign doctors

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) recently offered a bipartisan bill that would provide incentives to foreign physicians trained in the United States to remain longer after their completed residencies if they promise to practice in America’s rural and medically underserved communities.

“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 Sen. Collins. “By expanding access to healthcare 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.”

Sen. Collins on May 25 signed on as an original cosponsor of the Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Reauthorization Act, S. 1810, with bill sponsor U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and fellow cosponsors including U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Roy Blunt (R-MO).

Currently, the federal Conrad 30 Waiver Program allows J-1 visa foreign medical graduates to apply for a waiver of the two-year foreign residence requirement upon completion of the J-1 exchange visitor program, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which oversees the programs. The “30” refers to the number of doctors per state who may participate in the program, according to USCIS.

If enacted, S. 1810 would permit Conrad 30 program doctors to stay in the United States without having to return home if they agree to practice in an underserved area for three years rather than two years, according to a bill summary provided by Sen. Collins’ office. 

Additionally, S. 1810 would improve the process for obtaining a visa; allow for the program to be expanded beyond 30 slots if certain thresholds are met; permit the spouses of doctors to work in the United States; and provide worker protections to prevent the doctors from being mistreated, the summary says.

The American Medical Association, The Niskanen Center, the American Hospital Association, the National Rural Health Association, and the Society of Hospital Medicine endorsed S. 1810, which has been referred for consideration to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.