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Two bills to bolster our healthcare workforce, now and for many years to come.
Healthcare access and inequity are challenges that have plagued the US healthcare system for decades. However, the COVID-19 public health emergency has imperiled our healthcare workforce in an unprecedented manner. In years past, and especially in times like these, immigrant healthcare workers have served proudly together with their American colleagues, for the betterment of their patients. A significant proportion of healthcare workers in the US are immigrants, many of whom have applied for permanent resident status but are waiting due to administrative backlogs.
The CDC in early April 2020 noted that nearly 20% of all COVID-19 cases in the US were in fact, healthcare workers. As of today, there are over 1000 healthcare workers across the world who have succumbed to COVID-19 in the line of duty, many of whom were within the United States. Therefore, while these frontline workers serve their patients despite a high risk to themselves and their families, are lauded as “Healthcare Heroes” in the media and within their communities, they are still labeled “Temporary Workers” in the eyes of the US government.
1. These nurses and doctors are restricted from working outside of their employer and unable to assist in areas heavily burdened by the COVID-19.
2. They are ineligible for disability benefits, even if afflicted by COVID-19.
3. In the case of unemployment, their legal status in the US can be endangered,
4. If a healthcare worker on a visa dies in this pandemic, their dependents would be subject to deportation.
Fortunately, thanks in no small part to the outreach efforts of individuals like you, Congress acknowledged the gravity of the situation and has paved the way for reform by means of two healthcare bills.
The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (S.3599 & HR.6788) was introduced in May 2020 and has seen growing bipartisan support. This bill offers the aforementioned protections by means of permanent resident status to up to 25,000 nurses and 15,000 physicians who have already satisfied the legal requirements for immigration to the US but are awaiting administrative backlogs, by utilizing previously allocated but unused quotas from prior years. This would admittedly be a short-term relief but would provide the safety and security sorely needed by these healthcare workers.
The long-term solution to healthcare shortages and inequity comes in the form of the Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Reauthorization Act (S.948 & HR.2895). While, the Conrad 30 program has been successfully bringing physicians to serve in rural and underserved areas throughout the country, and has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress since 1994, this reauthorization act seeks to provide several enhancements which would focus on retention of physicians in these areas. The bipartisan nature of co-sponsorship increasing each day is evidence of its popularity and viability as an effective means to address the above concerns.
The widespread approval of these efforts is evidenced by the myriad of medical societies and stakeholders coming out in support of both bills.
Immigrant nurses and doctors have embraced our country as their home, and rather than trendy hashtags on social media, it is time that we embrace them and accept their integral role in American healthcare.
1. Provide legitimate contact information.
This connects you to your representative in Congress. Some Congressional offices may not respond to requests from outside their own constituency. Please note that PAHA respects your privacy and your personal information is never shared with a third-party without your consent.
2. Try to include your personal experience.
Has a doctor made an impact in your community? Do you know a nurse who put their patients above all else? Helped a family member in their time of need? Provided services which were sorely needed? Are you an immigrant healthcare worker who wants to help but is tied down by immigration restrictions?
Let your representative hear your story.
Make your voice heard.
Thank you for your engagement in this important matter, to aid our healthcare workers in their fight against COVID-19.