[Congressional Record: June 25, 2002 (Senate)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
By Mr. BROWNBACK (for himself and Mr. Conrad):
S. 2674. A bill to improve access to health care medically
underserved areas; to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Mr. CONRAD. Mr. President, today I join Senator Brownback in
introducing important legislation aimed at ensuring that a piece of the
puzzle regarding adequate physician services in underserved communities
By all accounts, the Conrad State 20 J-1 Visa Waiver program has been
a great success at bringing crucially-needed doctors to medically-
underserved areas. It has served as a wonderful resource for my State
and for other States across our Nation. The bill we are introducing
today eliminates the program's sunset date, thereby making sure that
this much-needed program remains available.
I created the Conrad State 20 program in 1994 to deal with the
reality that many areas of the country, especially rural communities,
have a very difficult time recruiting American doctors. These health
facilities have had no other choice but to turn to foreign medical
graduates to fill their needs. J-1 visa waivers allow foreign
physicians to practice in medically-underserved communities after their
J-1 status has expired without first returning to their home countries.
These waivers allow foreign physicians to receive nonimmigrant, H-1B
status, temporary worker in specialty occupation, for 3 years. In order
to receive the waiver, the physician must agree to serve the medically-
underserved community for the full three years. If he or she fails to
fulfill that commitment, the physician is subject to immediate
Prior to the creation of my State 20 program, J-1 visa waiver
exclusively involved finding an ``interested Federal agency'' to
coordinate the request. This was found to be a long, cumbersome, and
bureaucratic process. By allowing States to directly participate in the
process of obtaining waivers, my program relieves some of the burdens
on participating Federal agencies and allows decisions regarding a
State's health care needs to be made at the State level by the people
who know best.
I have shepherded the Conrad State 20 program from its creation in
1994 through a subsequent reauthorization and other improvements over
the years. By now removing the program's sunset date, the bill that
Senator Brownback and I are introducing today will ensure that this
important program remains a part of a State's tool belt in dealing with
physician-shortages in medically-underserved areas.
Our bill also provides for a modest increase from 20 allowable Conrad
State 20 visa waivers per State per year to 30. For some time, a number
of States have been bumping up against the State 20 ceiling, and my
hope is that this increase will help additional medically underserved
communities throughout the country procure the physician services they
I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.
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