Rebuttal: Health Care Organization Kaiser Attacks Groups Working to Ensure U.S. Doctors Get Residency – So they Can Practice Medicine

Two small groups working on behalf of U.S. doctors recently were attacked by the Kaiser Family Foundation. KFF describes itself as a nonprofit organization that “focuses on major health issues facing the nation.”

The organizations KFF attacked are advocates for physicians who do not have medical residencies at teaching hospitals, which means these doctors can’t be licensed to practice medicine. In other words, after at least eight years of advanced education, and likely amassing hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, they can’t work as doctors.

The KFF attack was delivered by Kaiser Health News (KHN), which is funded by KFF, an organization with more than half a billion dollars in assets. One of the organizations attacked in this dishonest story penned by Victoria Knight is Doctors without Jobs.

DwJ finds this spurious attack extremely troubling and believes it should be of concern to every American worried about the state of health care in the United States. That an extremely powerful organization, with extremely deep pockets, would choose to attack a small group who is trying to right a wrong that impacts health care across the country is an abuse of publication power and begs the question, “Why?” This attack on American doctors and DwJ has been launched using, among other deceitful tactics, the work of a discredited organization. The reporting on this disqualified organization is long, and DwJ will provide a list of third-party articles upon request.

While Kaiser is in the position to alleviate the suffering that is being meted out to U.S. doctors, it has chosen instead to focus energy on an illegitimate attack of an organization working to do good. But Kaiser can do better. It can do good too. Kaiser can help solve the problem of unmatched U.S. doctors. Kaiser can help put our doctors to work and repair a broken social contract. We encourage Kaiser to put its tremendous weight behind U.S. doctors and help put them to work.

Knight’s hit piece includes a quote from William W. Pinsky, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). In 2018, Pinsky reportedly earned nearly $1 million from the nonprofit ECFMG, an organization with a vested interest in maintaining a pipeline of foreign doctors to U.S. health services. Limiting transparency, ECFMG has removed its financial statements from its website. But a report from The Sheriff of Sodium indicates that ECFMG revenues for 2018 totaled $76.5 million, up from $45.3 million in 2006. Additional data reported by the same site makes the argument that there is a strong motive for profiteering by the ECFMG. That information can be found here.

Pinsky is on record disparaging U.S. medical school graduates. Last year, while DwJ was advocating for putting unmatched MDs to work during the pandemic, Pinsky was advocating for bringing in foreign doctors, and dismissed the pool of unmatched U.S. doctors, stating, “Technically they’re eligible … but there’s probably a reason why they didn’t match. We do have to be careful from a quality perspective.”

Among unmatched doctors in the U.S. are those who studied outside of the U.S. for their basic science years, but completed their clinical years here at U.S. hospitals. As such, they need to obtain ECFMG certification. Ironically, Pinsky is disparaging those who have to pay his organization for certification.

The facts are indisputable. In earlier decades, U.S. graduates of medical schools who wanted to practice did – they had no problem getting residencies. At that time, we needed more doctors and went looking internationally for help for our underserved communities. That was the situation for a long time, but it has since changed with more medical graduates than residency training positions. The National Residency Match Program (NRMP) data has charted this on a graph.

That status quo, that all doctors were able to practice, was such “a given” – so embedded in the public consciousness – that DwJ often talks with people who react in disbelief to learn that there are thousands of U.S. medical school graduates who can’t practice medicine. But even as thousands of graduates can’t practice because they can’t get a residency, in the last 10 years, more than 40,000 foreign doctors have been given taxpayer-funded residencies.

Let’s be clear. To the tune of $150,000 per residency – taxpayer dollars – Americans are paying for training foreign doctors, while we throw away the investment in our highly trained U.S. doctors. And ultimately, those costs – the actual dollars and the destruction of American citizens – are borne by all Americans. With student loans averaging $200,000, for 7,500 doctors who may not be able to repay their debts, that’s $1.5 billion.

So, indeed, one aspect of this multi-faceted issue is the importation of foreign doctors. DwJ is proud to be the only organization – as far as we know – that is committed to exposing how immigration policies are being used against American citizen physicians.

That the U.S. invests in multi-year training of students – and extends credit to thousands of these Americans who are committed to practicing medicine – and then pulls the rug out from under them at the residency stage is a travesty and a huge rip in our social contract. That Kaiser, ECFMG and other powerhouses position the fact that we have a large number of unmatched U.S. MDs as anything else but a gross injustice to Americans is highly disingenuous. But in today’s low level of discourse, the tropes of “anti-immigrant,” “racist” and “white privilege” are often used to advance a particular agenda. Use of them is a simple way to dismiss serious issues and avoid applying any intellectual rigor, research and reasoning to report on what the truth of a situation or issue is.

Also indisputable is that any organization that works to discredit American doctors – that treats American doctors as though they are unworthy of practicing medicine – and that supports bringing in foreign doctors at the expense of American doctors is an embarrassment to the country and a traitor to the principles and ideals of the United States of America.

Should Kaiser be interested in a serious discussion of this very serious issue that impacts all Americans, Doctors without Jobs is prepared to engage in an open and honest public debate, fairly moderated, with any Kaiser representative. Doctors without Jobs wants to ensure our doctors can work, certainly in a time of a widely reported doctor shortage. Does Kaiser care enough to have an open discussion?

In addition to discussing the issue of the thousands of unmatched American doctors, will Kaiser discuss why it isn’t advocating to train more American physicians, but instead supports sucking the talent out of other countries who undoubtedly need medical care for their own citizens?