Committee Approves Bill to Reauthorize Temporary Nurse Visa Program

United States House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary

Committee Approves Bill to Reauthorize Temporary Nurse Visa Program

Washington, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill (H.R. 1933) on June 23, 2011 to help hospitals in inner-city neighborhoods and rural areas that have difficulty in attracting nurses.  Specifically, it reauthorizes the H-1C temporary visa program that allows foreign nurses to come to the U.S. to work in health professional shortage areas for an additional three years.

The bill was reported favorably to the House floor by voice vote.  House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the bill’s sponsor, today praised the Committee vote.

Chairman Smith: “A number of American hospitals have great difficulty attracting nurses.  These include hospitals that serve mostly poor patients in inner-city neighborhoods and some hospitals in rural areas.

“For example, St. Bernard Hospital in Chicago is the only remaining hospital in an area of over 100,000 people and almost all of its patients live in poverty.  St. Bernard almost closed its doors in 1992, primarily because of its inability to attract registered nurses.

“I introduced H.R. 1933 to help St. Bernard and other similar hospitals.  The bill reauthorizes the H-1C program for an additional three years.  Just as nurses ensure care for the sick, the H-1C program ensures continued care for patients in inner-city and rural communities.”

About the H-1C Temporary Visa Program:
In 1999, Congress passed the “Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Act” to help hospitals that serve mostly poor patients in inner-city neighborhoods and some hospitals in rural areas.  It created a new “H-1C” temporary registered nurse visa program with 500 visas available each year that allow nurses to stay for three years.  The visa program expired in December 2009.

To be able to petition for a foreign nurse, an employer has to meet four conditions.  First, the employer has to be located in a health professional shortage area.  Second, the employer has to have at least 190 acute care beds.  Third, a certain percentage of the employer’s patients have to be Medicare patients.  And fourth, a certain percentage of patients have to be Medicaid patients.

The H-1C program also contains protections for American nurses.  For instance, a hospital has to agree to take timely and significant steps to recruit American nurses.   Also, hospitals have to pay the prevailing wage.  It also requires that foreign nurses cannot comprise more than one-third of a hospital’s registered nurses.

 

ICE Agrees To Improve Health Care Provided To Immigration Detainees As Part Of Settlement Of ACLU Lawsuit

Careless Detention An investigative series by Dana Priest and Amy Goldstein that details the poor medical care provided to immigration detainees being held in scores of facilities across the United States.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have agreed to provide immigration detainees with constitutionally adequate levels of medical and mental health care as part of an agreement to settle an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit charging that deficient care at the San Diego Correctional Facility (SDCF) caused unnecessary suffering and death. As part of the settlement, ICE has also agreed to change its policy on medical care that had led to the denial of what ICE deemed to be “non-emergency” care, including heart surgeries and cancer biopsies.

Among the settlement agreement’s provisions are requirements that detainees at SDCF receive health care that meets or exceeds National Commission on Correctional Health Care standards and that an additional full-time psychiatrist and four full-time psychiatric nurses be hired to ensure that detainees receive adequate mental health care. The settlement also requires immigration officials to remove from existing policies all statements suggesting that detainees will receive only emergency medical services and to include in the same policies explicit statements mandating that detainees shall be provided medical care whenever it is necessary to address a serious medical need.

Originally filed in June 2007 by the ACLU, ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties and the law firm Cooley LLP, the complaint stated that detainees at SDCF were routinely subjected to long delays before treatment, denied necessary medication for chronic illnesses and refused essential referrals prescribed by medical staff.

The lawsuit specifically cited the cases of 11 detainees, including several whose bipolar disorders and depression went untreated, a man who was forced to wait more than eight months for eye surgery and nearly suffered permanent disfigurement and detainees who never received medical attention despite suffering from a variety of maladies including Type 2 diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, abscessed and broken teeth and severe chest pains.

The lawsuit charged that the refusal of immigration officials to provide appropriate medical care punished immigration detainees in violation of the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the infliction of unnecessary pain and suffering on federal detainees. Because SDCF holds civil immigrant detainees not serving a criminal sentence, the Fifth Amendment applies to protect their civil rights.

A copy of the settlement agreement is available online at: www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/woods-v-morton-settlement-agreement

Immigrants in Healthcare Reform

From the California Immigrant Policy Center:

Dear Colleagues,

A few months ago your organization endorsed a letter to Senators Boxer and Feinstein urging the inclusion of immigrants in health care reform.  We are requesting that you join a similar effort once again.  As the Congress moves forward with the process of reconciling a new bill there are opportunities to make two changes in particular:  1) To lift the five year bar preventing lawfully present immigrants from accessing Medicaid; and 2) Removing a ban included in the Senate version of the bill that prevents undocumented immigrants from purchasing unsubsidized insurance with their own money through the new exchanges.  Attached is a letter to Speaker Pelosi and to Majority Leader Reid asking that these two changes be made.  If your organization is interested in endorsing this letter please contact Bill Daley with the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations at: daleybill@comcast.net.

You can also help by contacting your two U.S. Senators and your Member of Congress.  Calls to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid also are helpful.  Senator Reid’s phone number is:  (202) 224-3542.  Speaker Pelosi’s phone number is:  (202) 225-0100.

With appreciation,

Cary Sanders
Having Our Say

Isaac Menashe
California Immigrant Policy Center

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi The Honorable Harry Reid
Speaker of the House       Majority Leader of the United States Senate
H-232, US Capitol     522 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20515    Washington, DC 20510

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid:

The undersigned immigrant and civil rights organizations urge you to remedy two critical components of comprehensive health insurance reform impacting immigrant populations.

We believe that health insurance reform should benefit everyone in America, and that reform should create a truly inclusive and accessible health care system in which no one is left out.  It is critical that lawfully present immigrants have access to subsidies to purchase insurance on the exchange and are happy that this is included in the Senate health reform bill.  However, in order for very low-income lawful residents to be treated equitably in health reform, they must have full access to Medicaid, which offers strong cost sharing and premium protections. We urge you to ensure lawfully present immigrants are treated fairly as you complete the work of drafting and passing comprehensive health insurance reform by using any tools available to add a provision that would permit lawfully present immigrants to access Medicaid if they are otherwise qualified.

Immigrants contribute to this nation’s workforce, pay their fair share of taxes, and pursue citizenship to its fullest potential.  Yet, under existing law, many low-income legal immigrants must wait five years to obtain Medicaid coverage. The continuation of the five-year Medicaid waiting period for legal immigrants will make it more difficult for them to afford care while at the same time mandating that they purchase insurance. The five-year waiting period precludes individuals from obtaining necessary services to prevent serious medical conditions from worsening.  This type of restriction is not only unfair but also excludes immigrants from a critical safety net that their taxes help support.

We also urge you to amend provisions in the Senate bill that prohibit undocumented immigrants from purchasing unsubsidized insurance products with their own money through new exchanges. These provisions in the Senate legislation will impose a costly new verification system upon each person who seeks coverage through the exchange, whether they are an immigrant or a U.S. citizen.  By removing these provisions you will eliminate an unwieldy bureaucracy and an impractical bar to the insurance marketplace.

The existence of these discriminatory provisions will mean that adequate health coverage will not be available to significant populations – especially the four million U. S. Citizen children who live in mixed status families.   Retaining these provisions will merely shift costs to the general population and ultimately burden us all with poorly designed policies that undercut everyone’s access to affordable health coverage.

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