Can we rely on IMGs to help with the primary care shortage?

Studies show that international medical graduates (IMGs) see a disproportionally high number of Medicaid patients when compared to their American counterparts.

Like most doctors, if they had a choice, the incentives are such that they too would choose to practice in cities rather than in rural areas.

Less-restrictive visa requirements are making it harder to recruit IMGs to rural areas, and compounded by the fact that American graduates tend to gravitate towards becoming specialists, there’s talk of tightening up the visa requirements to force more foreign doctors to fill the primary care gap in rural America.

However, relying on foreign doctors is only a stop-gap measure for two reasons: i) once their commitment is complete, they likely will pack up and move to a city; and, ii) there is a finite number of IMGs, and often times, the countries they leave are more in need of their physician services than the United States.

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