Bringing the Economy Home

How The Immigration Bill Could Help Reverse Idaho’s Doctor Shortage

Stethoscope and Chart Doctor Shortage

Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact

The Idaho Statesman has reported on an interesting piece of law tucked into the federal immigration reform package. It’s a provision that could allow more foreign-born doctors to practice in states with physician shortages.

As StateImpact has reported over the last year, Idaho has fewer doctors per capita than every state in the country except Mississippi. The shortage here is expected to get worse, too, as almost 42 percent of Idaho doctors are 55 or older and approaching retirement.

The Statesman reports the immigration bill includes ways to make it easier for foreign-born doctors to work in the U.S.

“Foreign-doctor visas allow foreign-born and foreign-educated doctors and psychiatrists to work in places where American doctors won’t. Doctors with the waiver agree to spend three years in those places, employed by hospitals or clinics.

To practice in the U.S., all doctors with foreign medical degrees – except Canadian degrees – must complete residency training in the U.S., according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.” – Idaho Statesman

The paper says Idaho hasn’t had much luck with the foreign doctor visa program.

“The state has 30 waivers to use each year. From 2005 to 2009, it used four. There was a mini-surge in 2011, when five international doctors came to Nampa, Blackfoot and Boise to work. Most of them are still practicing in those cities.” – Idaho Statesman

Part of the challenge with attracting foreign physicians to Idaho could be cultural. You can read the full story here.


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