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[Congressional Record: June 25, 2002 (Senate)]
[Page S6015-S6029]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []


      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 
is preserved.
  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.