President Trump’s travel ban could worsen Texas’ doctor shortage

FILE - Doctors (Nexstar File Photo)
FILE - Doctors (Nexstar File Photo)

AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — President Donald Trump said his latest travel ban is necessary to keep terrorists out of the United States, but researchers warn the ban could also stop much-needed doctors from coming in.

New research by graduate students at Harvard University and MIT found Trump’s latest immigration-related executive order could cause doctor shortages in the U.S.

“I think you’ll feel it acutely in Texas,” said Dennis Andrulis, PhD. The senior research scientist at the Texas Health Institute, Andrulis said, “This international medical group is a small but significant.”

Texas already faces a shortage of primary care doctors and many of the state’s inner cities and rural areas depend on international medical graduates who come to the U.S. to complete medical residencies.

Andrulis said, “When they do their residence where do they go? They don’t go to the posh places they go to the rural areas and the under-served areas.” Government programs often offer incentives to steer foreign-born doctors toward areas where there are not enough doctors. “To help them cover the populations that other providers won’t want to care for,” said Andrulis.

The analysis found more than 7,000 doctors in the U.S. attended medical school in one of the six Muslim-majority countries included in Trump’s revised travel ban. The international medical graduates from those countries provide more than 14 million appointments a year, according to Harvard and MIT researchers.

“Those who are trying to care for low-income populations are drawing on these resources, these medical residents, to help them meet that need; they are the ones that are likely to really suffer,” said Andrulis.

Without the doctors from the travel ban countries, Andrulis anticipates longer wait times for those who still go to the doctor while others will just go without care. “Opportunities to go out and work in community-based care will also be significantly compromised,” Andrulis added.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, up to several hundred doctors from the travel ban countries may not be able to start their residencies this year. That’s unless waivers are granted and Andrulis doesn’t expect many hospitals will want to deal with all that paperwork.

A federal judge in Hawaii on Wednesday issued a temporary restraining order to block the ban, hours before the travel ban was set to begin. The Trump administration promised to appeal the judge’s decision to block the latest travel ban.

“We’re going to fight this terrible ruling, we’re going to take this case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the Supreme Court,” President Trump said. At a rally in Tennessee Wednesday night, Trump told the crowd, “This ruling makes us look weak.” The president added, “We’re talking about the safety of our nation and the safety and security of our people.”

Scheduled to go into effect Thursday morning, the president’s executive order would have barred people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days, refugees for 120 days. The U.S. Supreme Court will have the final say if the ban is constitutional.

“We’re going to win. We’re going to keep our citizens safe,” Trump said. Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will temporarily suspend expedited applications for H-1B visas starting April 3. Many immigrants’ doctors rely on H-1B visas to stay and practice medicine in the U.S. after residency.

Andrulis said the Republican’s healthcare proposal to replace Obamacare will likely cause a dip in demand for primary care doctors because he expects more people will be uninsured.

“What will end up happening is it will show up in other ways, in the emergency room where people say I can’t wait any longer I have to go to see the doctor,” Andrulis said.

The Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, contained provisions to attract doctors to the U.S. Whether the Republican’s healthcare proposal will include incentives for doctors is still a big question mark — along with the fate of the travel ban.

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