Wolfsdorf Rosenthal LLP

GAO Says Data on J-1 Waivers is Needed to Better Address Physician Shortages


The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report discussing the use of J-1 visa waivers as a major means of providing physicians to practice in underserved areas of the U.S. As the report notes, over 1,000 waivers were requested in each of fiscal years 2003 through 2005 by states and three federal agencies. In contrast to a decade ago, when federal agencies requested the vast majority of waivers, states have become the primary source of J-1 visa waiver requests.

States and federal agencies have requested waivers for physicians to work in a variety of practice specialties, settings, and locations. More than three-quarters of the waiver requests were for physicians to work in hospitals or private practices, and about half were for physicians to practice in rural areas.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) does not have the information needed to account for waiver physicians in its efforts to address physician shortages, the GAO noted, recommending that HHS collect and maintain data on waiver physicians and use these data when identifying areas experiencing physician shortages and placing physicians in these areas.

The report, “Foreign Physicians: Data on J-1 Waivers Needed to Better Address Physician Shortages,” is available at www.gao.gov.

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