Government Can't Marshal Doctors Who Aren't There

Government Can't Marshal Doctors Who Aren't There

November 11, 2009
Originally published in The Wall Street Journal

Herbert Pardes omits the cheapest and best solution to the shortage of physicians: increasing the legal immigration of foreign doctors.

The H-1B visa program grants a limited number of visas to doctors, medical professionals and other skilled foreigners. There should be no limit. Additionally, foreign-born doctors often settle in economically unattractive regions like upstate New York that American-born doctors eschew. Over one-third of physicians and surgeons there are immigrants, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.

In 2005, a paltry 7,218 medical and health-care professionals earned H-1B visas, while many were denied. A cap on the number of doctors and medical professionals entering the U.S. discourages health-care access and raises costs. The H-1B visa cap should be removed along with other barriers to the migration of foreign-born doctors and medical professionals. Training more American doctors is important for tomorrow, but looking abroad can help lower medical costs and improve access today.