The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, AAPI, championed the concerns of the Indian-American community on Capitol Hill May 3, during the organization’s Legislative Day in Washington, D.C.
Thirty one lawmakers attended the event held at the Rayburn House Office Building, to listen to some 100 representatives of AAPI, as well as H-1B visa holders, and those highlighting the issue of hate crime.
A White Paper outlining demands and concerns was submitted to lawmakers who trouped into the hall, among them the four Indian-American House members, Reps. Ami Bera, D-California, in his third term in office; Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington; Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois; and Ro Khanna, D-California.
Issues outlined in the White Paper included, increasing residency slots; passing hate crime laws; the Green Card backlog; reforms to the Stark Law to improve physician-patient health care; and the ability of insurance companies to sell health plans across state lines.
Sampat Shivangi, a 25-year veteran of AAPI, was the main organizer of this year’s Legislative Day, he told News India Times.
“AAPI is one of the premier associations of Indian-Americans, and has clout like no other group. Lawmakers know we can contribute to their campaigns, and they want to listen to us,” Shivangi said. Concerns beyond just those of the physicians’ community were highlighted. “Although people on H-1B, or advocates against hate crime meet lawmakers on their own, this time we helped them and they were able to meet more than 30 Congressmen at one spot,” Shivangi said.
AAPI members would like to see the Green Card backlog addressed, which it says has adversely impacted the Indian American community. So the focus was on “The Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017,”or House Resolution 392, a measure which has already garnered more than 200 signatures from members of Congress and seeks to remove the 7 percent cap on Green Cards on every country regardless of their size. It “will address many of the concerns facing the Indian American community,” AAPI said in its list of demands.
On the hate crime issue and H-1B, Rep. Jayapal told the gathering she had been an immigration attorney for 15 years and would be trying her best to push through legislation relating to both issues. AAPI sent a letter to Kansas legislators calling on them to pass a hate crimes law named in honor of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, the young Indian techie shot to death by a white man in a bar in Olathe, Kansas Feb. 22.
President of AAPI, Ajay Lodha, said the reaction from lawmakers was “good on some points,” of the White Paper. “There were differences on Obamacare,” he said, but there was general agreement “not to end, but to amend” healthcare. That came just a day before the House of Representatives by a margin of just 4 votes, passed the Republican-inspired “American Health Care Act,” the first step in replacing Obamacare.
“They (lawmakers) were very positive on increasing residency spots,” said Lodha. “This is not for India or Indians. Everybody in the United States is affected and we need to have more slots so that the very qualified people of different ethnic or natioal origins are not sitting unused in this country,” Lodha said. According to AAPI, there is an ongoing physician shortage, which affects the quality of care provided to American patients. There are patients who face lengthy delays in various specialties, a situation which will worsen over time. Legislation was introduced in previous sessions of Congress that would add 15,000 residency slots, training up to 45,000 more physicians, AAPI points out in its White Paper. “By adding more residency positions today, Congress can train more physicians to treat patients in the future,” the organization said.
Dr. Sudhir Parikh, publisher of News India Times and Padma Shri recipient, said AAPI had been holding Legislative Day for the last 20 years and it was a great way to move issues forward to the policymaking level. “Our main concern is to make meaningful health reform, deal with hate crime, and malpractice reform,” and other issues, Parikh said. As physicians who are respected both within the community and the mainstream, “We can educate the mainstream, our patients, on issues. And we can educate legislators on the concerns of practising physicians and the sometimes unfair regulations that govern our practice,” he added. “Unless we participate, we cannot claim our share of the American Dream,” he said.
The AAPI members, led by Shivangi, met Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Greg Harper, R-Mississippi, in part to press AAPI’s case to bring Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, to address the June annual convention of the organization.
The Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. held a reception for AAPI’s delegation and for federal and state lawmakers and other prominent members of the Indian-American community including activists May 3 evening.
The organization also recognized the four Indian-American lawmakers, as well as Rep. Gabbard, with appreciation awards.