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Shaheen Joins Legislation to Strengthen Health Care Workforce in Rural and Medically Underserved Areas

(Washington, DC) -- U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined bipartisan legislation last week that would help build a health care workforce in rural and medically underserved areas. The Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Reauthorization Act would allow international doctors to stay and practice in the United States following the completion of their residency, under the condition that they do so in areas experiencing a shortage of medical professionals. The bipartisan legislation is led by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Susan Collins (R-ME), and is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Thom Tillis (R-NC).   

“Too many communities in New Hampshire lack access to quality and timely medical care, particularly in rural and underserved areas,” said Senator Shaheen. “This bipartisan legislation would ensures that medical professionals trained in America stay in America. We can fill a dire need for our rural and underserved communities, improving health care outcomes for families in the Granite State and across this country.” 

International doctors on a J-1 visa are currently required to go back to their native country for two years after their residency ends before being able to apply for a new visa or green card. Under the Conrad 30 Program, each state would allow 30 of these medical professionals to stay in the United States to practice, as long as they do so in rural and underserved communities. The legislation also provides worker protections to medical professionals. 

The program is particularly important following the COVID19 pandemic, which exacerbated the need for medical treatment in already underserved areas. The impacts of the pandemic led to high rates of burnout in the medical profession, creating dire situations across New Hampshire and the country. This legislation aims to address those issues.  

It is endorsed by the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals, the National Rural Health Association, the Niskanen Center, the American Academy of Neurology, and the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans. 

Senator Shaheen led efforts in Congress to secure critical funds to address the COVID crisis in New Hampshire, including joining a bipartisan push to fix discrepancies that caused small and rural states to receive significantly less funding for vaccines and testing than originally estimated. During negotiations surrounding the American Rescue Plan Act, Shaheen helped steer efforts to increase funding for the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) to ensure hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers on the frontlines had the support they need to keep their doors open and continue to care for patients.