In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare workforce has faced significant pressure and increased demand for healthcare professionals worldwide. To address the shortage of healthcare workers in the United States, a group of bipartisan senators including Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), David Perdue (R-GA), Todd Young (R-IN), and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act on April 30, 2020.
The proposed legislation aims to grant 40,000 unused green card slots to foreign healthcare professionals, with up to 25,000 reserved for foreign nurses and up to 15,000 for eligible doctors. The bill recognizes the vital role of foreign-born healthcare professionals, who make up one-sixth of the healthcare workforce in the United States and emphasizes the crucial contributions they have made during the pandemic.
The bill also authorizes the allocation of green cards to families of medical workers from a pool of unclaimed slots. This provision acknowledges that the migration of healthcare professionals to the United States may not be a solo journey and that families may need to come along to provide support and care.
Although this bill is not the first of its kind, it is a positive step toward addressing critical shortages in the healthcare workforce in the United States. Congress has previously recaptured unused visas for healthcare professionals, allowing for nearly 200,000 unused visas to be recaptured between the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act in 2000 and the 2005 emergency supplemental appropriations bill. However, over 176,000 visas remained unused and were never recaptured through 2009.
The proposed legislation would authorize the use of up to 40,000 unused green card slots for medical professionals, potentially increasing the number of available visas for licensed and qualified medical professionals. Priority would be given to those who are already licensed, but the bill aims to encourage more medical professionals to seek licenses and begin their migration to the United States.
The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act recognizes that the healthcare workforce is essential to providing high-quality care to Americans, particularly during times of crisis. It highlights the need to address critical shortages in the healthcare workforce that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill is a positive step towards bridging this gap, and there are hopes that more measures will be taken to support the healthcare workforce in the future.