Three Ways Trump’s Immigration Ban Threatens Healthcare

By Peek & Toland on June 5, 2017

When the Trump administration attempted to implement a travel ban affecting seven mainly Muslim countries in January, many doctors and medical workers were trapped in the United States or abroad. The administration’s travel policies continue to be a threat to the healthcare sector, according to commentators.

The chaos unleashed in the medical sector in the short time the travel ban was in place highlights a little-known fact about the U.S. healthcare industry – its reliance on foreign workers.

Arguably, the reliance of our hospitals and other facilities on skilled foreign workers is almost as great as that of agriculture on unskilled and undocumented migrants.

An article in Vox highlighted how the Trump administration’s restrictions on overseas workers might affect the healthcare industry.

Healthcare impacts in travel ban

Travel bans may impact healthcare

Here are some of the ways healthcare is affected:

1 The shortage of doctors and surgeons is exacerbated

The Vox article stated nearly 30 percent of surgeons and doctors who work in the United States are from other countries.

A survey from the Migration Policy Institute in 2015 found 27.9 percent of doctors and surgeons are sourced from overseas. It found 22.3 percent of all healthcare workers are immigrants.

A letter from the American Medical Association to the Secretary of Homeland Security highlighted the present crisis in healthcare. It stated:

“Many communities, including rural and low-income areas, often have problems attracting physicians to meet their health care needs.”

The letter warned Trump’s tightened immigration policy threatens to create unintended consequences.

2 Iran and Syria Send Large Numbers of Surgeons to the United States

The Vox story revealed Iran and Syria are among the top 10 countries that send doctors to the United States. Both countries appeared on the list of nations impacted by January’s travel ban and are likely to be part of a future ban.

The Migration Policy Institute study found 5,000 Syrian-born doctors were working in the United States in 2015. It found there are 9,000 Iranian doctors here.

Compared with US-trained doctors, overseas practitioners are more likely to be working in areas with skills shortages like rural locations. They also do a disproportionate amount of work.

3 Foreign Healthcare Workers Bolster Some Specialties

In some key areas, doctors from overseas make up as much as half of the workforce. In geriatric medicine, 50.7 percent of doctors trained abroad. The figure for nephrology (kidneys) is 47.2 percent, and 43.6 percent of specialist cardiac doctors are from other countries.

How the Travel Ban is Already Impacting Healthcare

The Vox article pointed out the Trump administration policies are already hurting medicine. Some doctors want to return home or fear they will be trapped abroad. The specter of visa clampdowns and travel bans in the future may impact the number of overseas doctors in American hospitals.

If you are a doctor who wants to work in America or a health provider looking to bring skilled work in from abroad, you should talk to our experienced Austin visas lawyers. See our resources here or call us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration Reform, Visas

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Medical Worker Visas Help Meet Shortage of Health Professionals

By Peek & Toland on April 14, 2017

Doctors and other health workers are important members of society. However, a shortage in key areas has made foreign doctors and nurses increasingly vital meaning more health care providers are applying for medical worker visas.

We are seeing an expansion of health care services here in Austin. Baylor Scott & White Health, the nation’s largest nonprofit health care system, is to open two clinics in the heart of the downtown.

The major investment was detailed in Austin Business Journal. Previously, the health provider was confined to the suburbs of the city.

Medical worker visas bring doctors to the country

The health care sector is expanding rapidly. The growing demands of the baby boomer generation combined with staff shortages in some sectors has led more hospitals and clinics to seek physicians and nurses overseas.

According to Forbes more than a quarter of the doctors and surgeons who are working in the United States are from other countries along with about a fifth of all nurses and a sixth of dentists.

According to the latest predictions, the United States will face a shortage of 46,000 to 90,400 doctors by 2025. Primary care took the biggest hit, a trend likely linked to pay levels lagging behind those of other areas. From 2000 to 2004, the median income rose by just 10 percent in the primary care field compared to 16 percent for non-primary specialties.

Given the level of demand, a properly functioning system of medical worker visas is necessary.

What Medical Worker Visas Should You Apply For?

Visas for Doctors

At Peek & Toland , we help medical providers apply for visas for doctors. Notwithstanding the shortages of health care professionals in some areas, it can be tough to obtain a visa.

Most doctors enter the United States on either J-1 or H-1B visas. The H-1B is often preferred by the physicians. However, the J-1 may be the only option offered by some health care providers because there are fewer liabilities and responsibilities on the employer.

The J-1, or exchange visitor visa, is sponsored by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).

ECFMG places inflexible limits on the length of the visa, change in programs, and other areas like working additional jobs.

ECFMG is authorized by the U.S. Department of State to sponsor J-1 Exchange Visitor doctors who are enrolled in training or accredited programs of graduate medical education as well as advanced research programs. You can find out more about J-1 visas here.

Visas for Nurses

The H-1C nonimmigrant category was created in 1999 during an acute shortage of nurses. Demand for the visas has fluctuated in recent years. Currently, only 500 H-1C visas are granted annually. There are numerical limits for each state based on the state’s population.

States like Texas with more than nine million people have a cap of 50 a year.

Given the small numbers of visas given, only the most qualified nurses from other countries will be accepted. You can read about the requirements here on our website.

The caps on visa numbers are restrictive given the projected size of the demand for health professionals in hospitals and other medical facilities.

More doctors from Spanish speaking countries would also help address the serious shortage of doctors who speak a second language. While almost 40 million people in the United States spoke Spanish as of 2011, making it the second-most prevalent language after English, Forbes reported less than 4 percent of health providers are proficient in the language. The shortage is even more acute in relation to other languages.

At Peek & Toland our seasoned immigration attorneys help medical professionals who are seeking employment in the United States apply for visas. Given the shortage of visas, it’s vital to get your application right. You can read more about the process here. Contact us at (512) 474-4445 for a consultation

Posted in Visas

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$900 Million Health Care Fraud Investigation Focuses on Texas and Florida

By Peek & Toland on August 26, 2016

Investigating health care fraud has been a priority of the Obama administration in recent years, and the busts appear to be getting bigger. Federal prosecutors say they have uncovered the largest healthcare fraud to date and it’s centered on Texas and Florida.

Last month, the Justice Department announced charges against hundreds of people across the United States who are accused of being part of a $900 million Medicare fraud.

A massive health care fraud was investigated in Texas

CNN described the bust as “the largest takedown in history,” in terms of the amount that the Department of Justice said was involved and the number of participants.

Investigators allege most of the cases in question entail separate fraudulent billings to Medicaid, Medicare or both systems for treatments that were not provided.

Over recent years health care fraud has become a leading white collar crime in Texas. We have seen the arrests of a considerable number of medical professionals.

The CNN report said a doctor in Texas was charged with involvement in schemes to bill Medicare for home health services that were not necessary and were not provided.

The Department of Justice said the fraud in Texas amounted to $193 million making it the biggest player in the alleged scheme after Florida where the feds claim the fraud ran to $237 million. Dallas and San Antonio were listed as hot spots in Texas.

The investigation was carried out by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force which forms part of a joint initiative between the Departments of Health and Human Service and Justice. It was set up in 2007.

CNN reported the strike force has carried out operations which have led to more than 1,000 people being charged with more than $3.5 billion in health care fraud.

Federal investigators have shown considerable zeal in pursuing health care fraud operations. When there is pressure to get results, medical professionals risk being erroneously being drawn into investigations and losing their reputations and livelihoods.

At Peek & Toland , we represent people who have been charged with white collar crimes. Although these are not offenses of violence, they carry harsh sentences and it’s vital to get experienced legal representation as soon as possible. Contact our Austin defense attorneys here or call (512) 474-4445.


Posted in Criminal Defense

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