Americans see doctors from banned countries 14 million times a year, analysis finds

Doctors from the six countries included in President Donald Trump’s travel ban provide key medical care to Americans.
Doctors from the six countries included in President Donald Trump’s travel ban provide key medical care to Americans. AP

Doctors from the six countries included in President Donald Trump’s travel ban provide Americans with 14 million medical appointments each year, a new analysis found.

There are currently more than 7,000 doctors from Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen practicing medicine in the U.S., according to the Immigrant Doctors Project. President Donald Trump’s revised executive order, which goes into effect Mar. 16, will ban travel from those six nations, along with suspending the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Ninety-four percent of Americans live in a community where a doctor from at least one of the countries practices.

The analysis found services provided by immigrant doctors to be greatest in the Rust Belt.

“I think this is an area that has a dearth of physicians, and when there's demand and no supply, immigrants will help us to basically address that gap in the medical workforce,” researcher Peter Ganong told WBUR. “We should be very concerned about the consequences of this executive order for patient care.”

Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, Indiana and Kentucky have particularly high concentrations of foreign-born doctors providing care, often in rural areas where medical facilities are scarce. All of those states voted for Trump.

Out of the 14 million medical appointments provided from doctors from the six countries, 2.3 million are specifically in areas that have doctor shortages. Detroit is the city with the highest share of foreign doctors in the country. There are 250-500 doctors from the six banned countries in the area, according to the analysis, which provide 500,000 to a million medical appointments each year.

After Trump’s original executive order was met with chaos and protests in airports and legal challenges, the administration issued a revised order it hoped would avoid the issues raised with the first one. However, more than a half-dozen states have already filed multiple lawsuits, arguing the ban is discriminatory and does nothing to enhance U.S. national security.

Many foreign-born doctors are in the country on J1 or H1-B visas, which allow them to attend U.S. medical schools and residency programs. Those with visas or permanent resident cards will be allowed to enter and exit the country freely under the revised travel ban, but many fear changes to visa rules could impact their legal status or prevent them from reentering the country in the future.

“There's a stock of doctors, but if we cut off the flow of new doctors coming in, we now know exactly where these doctors were providing services,” Ganong said. “The first holes where this is going to show up is going to be, basically, unfilled residency slots because of this executive order.”

The Immigrant Doctors Project is concerned the executive order will contribute to future doctor shortages, because qualified physicians will not be allowed into the country for training and providing the much-needed appointments in underserved areas.

An analysis by the Association of American Medical Colleges done before Trump’s travel ban was originally announced found that by 2025, there will be a shortfall of 61,700 to 94,700 physicians in the U.S. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, by the 2023 academic year, the number of residency positions available “will continue to substantially exceed the number of U.S. medical graduates seeking them.”