By Surekha Vijh
WASHINGTON DC:Enrollment under President Obama’s health care law, called Obamacare, recently reached 7.5 million, exceeding their original expectations, thus jeopardizing the capacity of the healthcare system with the current number of physicians.
This leaves America facing a critical shortage of trained young medical doctors with its aging population and physicians, and only a few new doctors replacing the retiring senior doctors.
Indian American doctors of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) have urged the US Congress to take immediate action in expanding and funding for medical training.
More than one hundred leading physicians came here recently from across the country to share their voice to fix the many vital healthcare issues confronting physicians in the US, while dozens of leading US congressmen and senators from both sides of the political aisle endorsed their agenda and promised to take action in the US Congress.
‘Legislative Day’ on the Hill, organized by AAPI, the largest ethnic organization of physicians, comprising over 100,000 physicians of Indian origin, began their program “Doctors Making a Difference” with a reception at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill.
In his keynote address, the newly appointed Indian Ambassador to the US, Dr. S. Jaishankar, congratulated the physicians of Indian origin for their achievements and contributions to their adopted country and their motherland, India.
Support for the nomination of Dr. Vivek H. Murthy as Surgeon General of the US, immigration reform and the J-1 Visa Waiver Program were the other issues mentioned in the Legislative Agenda for 2014.
The new Indian American US Assistant Secretary of State, Nisha Desai Biswal, the Obama administration’s point person for South Asia, called India “a leader and a partner on many health innovations,” and welcomed the Indian American doctors for their continued engagement and activism.
Rep. Jim McDermott, MD (D-WA), co-chair of the India Caucus in the US House, stressed the “need to fix to the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula.”
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) acknowledged the need for a permanent fix to SGR. “We don’t allow it to lapse, without fixing,” she said.
Rep. Joe Crowley from New York said the US has not been working towards meeting the growing demand for doctors by educating and raising the residency slots in the country, although his country has the best, the finest, bravest physicians in the whole world, He also praised India for their peaceful transfer of power through the largest democratic exercise in the world.
Rep. Tom Price, MD (R-GA), said the healthcare problem was not a Republican or a Democratic, but it was an American problem. “We will need to work together and find amicable solutions to it,” he said.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Chief Democratic Party Whip, said to have a permanent fix for SGR will be a challenge to fund the increase healthcare costs estimated at $134 billion but savings will occur with withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) and Rep. Ami Bera, MD (D-CA), discussed their bipartisan Bill, “Saving Lives, Saving Costs Act.”
Barr said, “This legislation would lower healthcare costs and improve patient care by reducing medical malpractice and insurance fraud using evidence-based guidelines developed by doctors.”
Dr. Ami Bera added, “Doctors who practice using these guidelines would be eligible for liability protection, known as a “safe harbor,” if the case involves a federal statute or if federal money was used to pay for care.”
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), admitted that the gridlock in the US Congress has resulted in many important initiatives not succeeding. He promised to work in a bi-partisan way, reforming the immigration system, fixing the SGR formula permanently and the liability reforms.
Dr. Jayesh Shah, president of AAPI, said, “We have been seeking to collectively shape the best health care for the people of US, with the physician at the helm, caring for the medically underserved as we have done for several decades when physicians of Indian origin came to the US in larger numbers.”
Dr. Harbhajan Ajrawat, chair of AAPI’s Legislative Committee, led a discussion on the Affordable Care Act and the need for Liability Reforms.
“Physicians graduating from accredited U.S. residency programs should also receive similar treatment, enabling more physicians to be eligible for Green Cards and address the ongoing physician shortage,” said Dr. Seema Jain, Vice-President of AAPI.
Dr. Ravi Jahagirdar, President-elect of AAPI, said, “We have once again succeeded in bringing to the forefront the many important health care issues facing the physician community and raising our voice united before the US Congress.” He gave an overall view of the many programs planned for AAPI as he prepares to lead AAPI during the Convention in Texas in June this year.
Indian American doctors make up about eight percent of the total number of physicians in America.