Issa introduces bipartisan bill to address doctor shortage in rural areas

Darrell Issa

A program that increases access to health care in underserved rural areas would be extended and expanded under bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on Tuesday.

The Conrad State 30 & Physician Access Act would expand and extend U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Conrad 30 Waiver Program, which enables medical students from abroad to remain in the United States after completion of medical residencies if they practice in underserved areas for three years.

“At a time when so many communities both here in California and across the country are facing shortages of much-needed physicians, it’s never been more important to provide opportunities for top-notch physicians from around the world to stay here in America and help fill these needs,” Issa said. “The bill we’ve introduced extends and improves the Conrad 30 program to provide care where it’s needed most.”

Under current law, medical students studying in the country on J-1 visas are required to return to their home country for two years after completion of medical residencies before they can become eligible for permanent legal status. The Conrad 30 Program provides exemptions when certain provisions are met.

The Conrad 30 Program, which is set to expire on April 28, would be extended until 2021 under the legislation. The bill would also expand the program by permitting states to offer more than the current limit of 30 waivers per state.

“If signed into law, the bill would be a big win for small and rural areas, underserved communities within larger states like California and the patients who will have improved access to world-class care where they live,” Issa said.

U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), who introduced the bill with Issa, said it makes no sense for highly skilled new doctors to be forced out of the country at a time when many rural areas are struggling to attract medical professionals.

“Extending the Conrad 30 visa waiver program is a common sense step toward ensuring all Americans have access to quality health care providers,” Schneider said.