News Source: Livemint
Pune: As far as US hospitals are concerned, this was not what the doctor ordered. Minimum salaries to be paid to doctors and others coming to America on H-1B visas were hiked by around 40% by the Donald Trump administration.
The result? A big impact on US hospitals’ ability to hire physicians and specialists from abroad, especially India.
India is one of the biggest sources of doctors under this scheme. And Indians account for two-thirds of the 85,000 H-IB visas granted annually.
The US decision came on October 8, via a Department of Labor (DoL) Interim Final Rule (IFR) that mandated that minimum wages to be paid to H-1B workers be higher by 40% on average.
Aimed primarily at protecting American jobs by curbing the number of skilled professionals in technology sectors, the rule also applies to medical professionals.
On Monday, a group of trade organisations and US colleges filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of California court challenging the Interim Final Rule (IFR). Plaintiffs include American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment, US Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers, Cornell University, Stanford Junior University and California Institute of Technology.
“This is rocking the entire business, medical and immigrant communities, in that prevailing wages will be skyrocketing, which will certainly affect both not-for-profit H-1B sponsors such as hospitals as well as general business sponsors. It is astounding that the regulatory language states that it is in response to US employers who have been engaged in ‘gaming’ the system,” said Neil Weinrib, managing attorney at Neil A Weinrib & Associates.
A study by the National Foundation for American Policy found that in some cases, the IFR would result in the minimum payable wage doubling, including for doctors.
Big Impact on Smaller Towns
For instance, minimum wages for a paediatrician would increase by 177% in Wichita, Kansas and by 153% in parts of Michigan. In cases where DoL does not have enough data available, it has mandated a $100 per hour wage, or $208,000 per year.
This means medical residents who are paid $50,000-70,000 in teaching hospitals will now have to be paid $208,000 annually. In Minneapolis, the prevailing wage rate for a paediatrician was $115,000. It will now be $208,000 as well. The biggest impact would be seen in smaller towns and rural clinics, several of which are staffed by Indian doctors.
According to data from the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, there are over 220,000 Indian-origin doctors in the US, accounting for almost 20% of all doctors in the country and about a quarter of all international medical graduates employed in the US. Indians are the largest group of international medical graduates in the US.
“The new rule will force employers to choose between violating the IFR or Federal Stark Law, which bars employers from paying physicians in excess of the ‘fair market value’ for their services. Violations can be punished by fines of up to $100,000 per violation. The IFR immediately and irreparably harms plaintiffs and the public,” said Greg Siskind, an immigration attorney. Siskind is one of the immigration attorneys who filed a lawsuit contesting the IFR on Monday.