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Trump’s Immigration Policy Affects Health Care Interests: Travel Ban Keeps Doctors Out

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President Donald Trump's immigration reform could be colliding with national health care concerns, warns a new Harvard and IMT study. The report analyzes how the recently announced travel ban impacts the physician workforce, as well as the patients relying on the services of immigrant doctors.

A team of economists from the two universities investigated the contribution of these medical professionals to the health care system and discovered they annually bring in 14 million doctor's appointments.

The revised executive order, signed by Trump on March 6, restricts visas for citizens of six Muslim-majority countries - Libya, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan,and Syria - and could keep thousands of America's doctors outside the borders, depriving millions of patients of their current physicians.

More than 7,000 doctors actively practicing medicine in the United States were initially trained in the six countries targeted by the new travel ban. This accounts for 0.75 percent of specialists and primary care physicians working in America.

Impact On Patient Care

Titled "Immigrant Doctors Project," the research examined data from Doximity, a social networking site for doctors, looking to determine how many professionals hailing from the targeted countries are currently working in every area of the country.

Processing all available information, the study authors were able to map each region and pinpoint the areas where patients would be left without their trusted health care providers. The findings showed immigrant doctors have found employment all over the United States, particularly in the Rust Belt and Appalachia, and are serving communities in Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, Indiana, and Kentucky.

According to the study, these professionals' work is of an undeniable value to the national health care system, given that they mainly service regions facing a physician shortage. Their efforts provide medical assistance to 2.3 million patients in rural areas, that can't otherwise attract a sufficient number of high-quality practitioners.

Urban communities are also facing a problem, as the health care workforce in many cities comprises immigrant professionals. The highest share of doctors from the targeted countries is found in hospitals from Michigan (Detroit), California (Los Angeles), and Ohio (Toledo, Cleveland, and Dayton).

The researchers noted that these medical practitioners are highly qualified and bring important contributions to the fields of neurology, cardiology, pathology, gastroenterology, and internal medicine. The decrease in specialists' numbers due to the travel ban would seriously impact not only these areas of medical practice, but also patients in remote areas.

"In remote areas, a single cardiologist or neurologist can be responsible for management of life-threatening conditions for hundreds of individuals," the researchers explained. "Given the shortages of specialists in these areas, their departure can have deleterious consequences for the management of these conditions."

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