No matter your political beliefs, one of the unintended consequences of the media concentration on Stormy Daniels, the Mueller investigation, and whether attorney Michael Cohen had improper dealings, is that many important issues fade away.
One of those issues is immigration and particularly how immigration bans may affect us. The “Muslim travel ban” is a contentious and provocative issue to argue in any public forum. It is one that everyone involved in the medical industry in America needs to think about.
According to Rural Health Web, 20% of U.S. citizens live in country areas, but only 10% of physicians choose to practice there. It’s also a fact that demand for doctors will always be greater than supply, with an estimated shortage of between 46,100 and 90,400 doctors by 2025.
When it comes to the ban, President Trump says it’s a matter of security. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), however, says this move will create a health security issue. Executive Vice President Atul Grover, MD, PhD states that the idea of the order “… is that we have to keep people out to keep us safe. But you’re keeping people out who are going to take care of us.”
Slightly more than 25% of doctors practicing in the U.S. are born in a foreign country. In areas that have the highest rates of poverty (i.e. 30%+ of occupants live below the federal poverty rate), however, this number rises to just under 30% of foreign trained doctors. If household income is below the $15,000 per annum rate, that number rises again – 42.5% of doctors working in these areas are foreign-trained.
A few more statistics to consider:
- When it comes to the number of medical graduates a country produces, America ranks 30th of 35 countries.
- In 2013, there were 2,101 applicants from 11 different countries with a Muslim majority, of which 40% were matched into a U.S.-based residency program.
- When it comes to a J-1 visa (a non-immigrant visa), from 2014–2015, there were 9,206 physicians from 130 countries, and 6 of the top 10 countries of origin have Muslim majority populations.
Enough statistics, let’s talk.
No matter what your political beliefs, this poses a serious threat to the ongoing healthcare of some of the communities who are in the most need. For U.S. trained doctors, a move to a country area requires a choice to be made.
This comes from the choice of the physicians and not a community, many of whom fight long and hard for the healthcare rights of its inhabitants.
Some communities are fighting back including lobbying hard against one of the last publicly owned and operated hospitals in Ohio to be turned into a non-profit private corporation.
As more rural hospitals close, some health policy analysts say it’s time communities made some hard decisions. Most agree that communities need to completely change the healthcare structure in small towns. This includes an increase in telemedicine, expanding loan forgiveness and residency reimbursement proposals.
While no one wants to admit it, foreign-trained doctors are simply more open to living in rural areas than U.S.-trained doctors. That is why hundreds of small towns and rural areas are worried about the travel ban. Despite the expected individual patient anxieties about doctors who were trained in a mainly Muslim country, communities usually embrace them.
Is it a matter of sorting the wheat from the chaff? Most experts agree that’s not possible. It’s worth noting that no fatal terrorist attacks post 9/11 have been perpetrated by an individual from any of the seven countries listed in the ban (although there have been several non-fatal incidences committed by individuals from these countries).
This is not an easy issue to discuss. Yet, it’s not going to go away. So, even though we may not have all of the answers, it’s nevertheless a vital issue deserving of serious debate.