U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) has joined Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) in introducing S. 616, the Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Act. The bipartisan legislation will improve and make permanent the State 30 program (also known as the J-1 Visa Waiver Program), a national initiative that permits states to recommend visa waivers for physicians recruited to care for patients in medically underserved communities.
"Access to physicians and other health care providers is essential to the survival and success of Kansas towns and rural communities across the country," Sen. Moran said. "We face a serious shortage of physicians in rural America. The Conrad State 30 program is a commonsense way to help address this medical workforce shortage by allowing more physicians to serve in the underserved communities that need them most."
"The J-1 Visa Waiver Program is essential to providing health care in rural communities throughout Kansas and across the United States," said Dr. John Jeter, Hays Medical Center CEO and President in Hays, Kan. "It is difficult to recruit physicians to rural communities and this program is a tool that has allowed Hays Medical Center and other rural hospitals and clinics the opportunity to recruit and retain physicians."
"The Conrad 30 Program has been a valuable tool in attracting physicians to rural communities in Kansas," said Michael Thomas, CEO of Meade District Hospital/Artesian Valley Health System in Meade, Kan. "The program has been utilized successfully by our hospital and allowed us to provide quality, accessible care to our local community members."
The State 30 program has brought thousands of physicians to rural, inner city, and other medically underserved communities since it began in 1994. Sen. Moran introduced legislation to extend the program during his time in the U.S. House of Representatives. Under the State 30 program, foreign-born, American-trained doctors agree to practice medicine in underserved communities for at least three years in exchange for the waiver of certain visa restrictions that lengthens their stay in the United States. Since its inception, the State 30 program has been extended numerous times and brought doctors to rural and underserved communities in all 50 states.
The physician shortage in America is a growing crisis. By 2020, projections show the nation may fall short by as many as 200,000 doctors. This shortage will be felt hardest in rural areas in Kansas and across the nation. S. 616 provides additional incentives for more doctors to participate in the program. Last Congress, Sen. Moran joined Senator Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) in introducing S. 1979, the Conrad State 30 Improvement Act, which is similar legislation to improve the State 30 program.
S. 616 is supported by the following organizations:
Kansas Hospital Association
American Medical Association
American Hospital Association
National Rural Health Association
Association of American Medical Colleges
Federation of American Hospitals
IMG (International Medical Graduate) Task Force
Minnesota Department of Health