Emmer’s bipartisan bill would help end shortage of rural physicians

U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) recently cosponsored a bipartisan bill aimed at placing more physicians in rural communities across America, where the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates there will be a shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians by 2033.

“The United States continues to face a deficit of physicians, with rural hospitals shouldering some of the heaviest burdens associated with this shortfall,” Rep. Emmer said. 

On July 16 the congressman introduced the Grant Residency for Additional Doctors (GRAD) Act of 2021, H.R. 4477, with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) to facilitate the expedited review of applications of aliens applying for admission to the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act who are coming to the U.S. to participate in a graduate medical education or training program, according to the congressional record bill summary.

“As we seek to increase the number of physicians domestically, medical professionals from around the world have historically been able to help address doctor shortages in rural areas, utilizing the J-1 visa process to carry out their medical residencies in the American health system,” said Rep. Emmer.

A J-1 visa is a temporary, nonimmigrant visa that international medical students and physicians use to work in U.S.-based medical residency programs. Currently, foreign physicians scheduled to serve their residencies in American hospitals are encountering long processing delays in obtaining J-1 visas from U.S. embassies in their countries, according to the lawmaker’s office.

If enacted, the legislation would direct the U.S. State Department to establish a dedicated staff position within the department to process J-1 visa applications during times of increased demand, according to a bill summary provided by Rep. Emmer’s office. 

The bill also would provide training to relevant foreign service and consular officers charged with reviewing these visa applications to recognize the domestic need for such positions and work to eliminate any bureaucratic hurdles to processing.

“Even before the outbreak of the coronavirus, our rural communities had difficulty attracting and retaining qualified physicians,” Rep. Emmer said. “The GRAD Act is a nonpartisan way to keep our hospitals staffed while addressing bureaucratic delays in the J-1 program.”