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Update: Governor Signs Bill in Illinois to Create Formal Task Force on Internationally-Licensed Health Care Professionals

Update: Governor Signs Bill in Illinois to Create Formal Task Force on Internationally-Licensed Health Care Professionals

Upwardly Global and Illinois State Representative Theresa Mah, along with more than a dozen supporting organizations, are pleased to announce the passing of IL HB5465 to create a Task Force on Internationally-Licensed Health Care Professionals. The task force will investigate barriers to licensure for internationally-licensed health care professionals in Illinois and prepare a report for the Governor and General Assembly outlining strategies for barrier reduction

“Immigrants have always been an incredible asset to our communities, and House Bill 5465 is a testament to that fact,” said state Rep. Theresa Mah, D-Chicago. “This legislation will help us address the health care workforce shortage, improve the safety of patients and increase access to employment for internationally licensed health care professionals. When we uplift our immigrant communities, everybody wins.”

The demand for health care workers in Illinois has steadily risen over the past decade, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated shortages. A recent report by Migration Policy Institute estimates that Illinois will face a shortage of 6,200 physicians and 14,000 registered nurses by 2030, while there are currently 12,000 immigrants with health or medical degrees that are underemployed or out of work, with half of these underemployed immigrants living in Cook County (67% of whom are naturalized residents or permanent residents). 

“It is our hope that this task force will help expand opportunities for internationally-trained health care professionals throughout the state. The barriers that this group of professionals face are numerous and costly–not only for them but also for the residents of the state,” said Rebecca Neuwirth, Executive Vice President at Upwardly Global. 

Currently, International Medical Graduates (IMGs) are required to pass several steps to re-license as physicians in Illinois, including a lengthy and inaccessible residency system. Upwardly Global estimates that it generally costs immigrants who trained as doctors elsewhere at least $10,000 and four to five years to get relicensed in the US.  Illinois is now joining several other states, including Minnesota, Washington, Massachusetts, and Colorado, who are questioning this system and piloting alternatives. 

In 2021, Representative Theresa Mah convened the Illinois Healthcare Pathways Working Group, composed of health care, workforce development, and immigrant services experts, to examine this issue and push for reform. Through her leadership, and that of Senate sponsors Sen. Aquino, Sen. Van Pelt, and Sen. Simmons, IL HB5465 passed with unanimous support in the IL Senate. 

The resulting task force will also review models implemented in other states and in Canada, including a model adopted in Washington state where physicians are granted restricted licenses to work under the supervision of fully licensed physicians for a period of time. This model shares similarities with a temporary opportunity opened by Governor Pritzker and IDFPR Secretary Treto earlier this year to allow internationally-trained physicians to work under IL physicians and alleviate workforce demands during the Covid-19 pandemic. To date, more than 365 IMGs have been granted the temporary permits and are ready to work. 

The Illinois Healthcare Pathways Working Group, led by Rep. Mah and Upwardly Global, is supporting the implementation of the temporary opportunity through information sharing, job seeker coaching and employer outreach (click here for more materials and information), while working behind-the-scenes to connect and strengthen the field of engaged local and national non profit, government, and employer stakeholders to build and inform the forthcoming IL task force. The creation of the task force is the first step towards long-term legislative reform so that trained immigrants and refugees can access permanent career pathways and serve a healthcare system that desperately needs their talent. 

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About Upwardly Global

Upwardly Global is a national nonprofit whose mission is to eliminate employment barriers for immigrant and refugee professionals, and advance the inclusion of their skills into the U.S. economy. https://www.upwardlyglobal.org/

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