America’s Rural Counties Face Dire Shortages of Physicians; Foreign-born Doctors Can Help, Report Shows



Sarah Doolin:

New York, NY — Today marks the expiration of the Conrad 30 Waiver program, which permits each state’s Department of Health to sponsor up to thirty foreign physicians to work in underserved areas and waives the J-1 visa requirement that foreign-born individuals must return home for at least two years after completion of medical training. While the program has been reauthorized several times in the past, a new report by the New American Economy asserts that there is more the United States government could do to allow immigrant doctors to serve America’s communities that face severe shortages of medical practitioners.

Analyzing 2015 data from the American Medical Association, “Life Support: The Shortage of Physicians in America’s Rural Counties and How Foreign-Born Doctors can Help” shows that twenty-seven states have at least one county with no doctors, and forty states have a county with fewer than ten physicians for every 100,000 residents.

“This report shines a light on the critical need for additional doctors in small, rural counties across the country,” said John Feinblatt, Chairman of New American Economy. “A concerted effort must be made by Congress to support foreign-born physicians who want to practice in the United States, so that they can care for American communities.”

The report finds:

  • America’s rural counties are facing dire physician shortages.
    • Urban areas in the country boast roughly 205 active physicians for every 100,000 residents, while small, rural counties have less than half as many active physicians covering their populations — 82 active physicians for every 100,000 residents.
  • Some states with large swaths of rural areas have been particularly impacted by physician shortages.
    • Rural communities in Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Arizona face the worst physician shortages in the country. In Florida’s small, rural counties, for example, there is an average of 42 active doctors for every 100,000 residents.
  • Residents in America’s rural communities are aging and will require additional medical support. 
    • Studies have found that the average elderly American spends roughly three times more each year on healthcare than the average working-age individual. The median age of residents in small, rural counties is 42 years old, while in large, urban counties, it is 38.5.
  • Immigrant doctors could help alleviate physician shortages.
    • Currently, doctors who went to foreign medical schools make up 17 percent of active physicians practicing in small, rural areas, while they account for almost 25 percent of physicians working in urban counties. With many rural health systems struggling to find enough physicians, these foreign-born doctors could play a valuable role filling medical gaps.

Read “Life Support: The Shortage of Physicians in America’s Rural Counties and How Foreign-Born Doctors can Help.”

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…