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Ga. immigration law bogs down medical licensing

Officials say Georgia's law cracking down on illegal immigration is causing administrative problems for doctors and creating more work for the state regulators who license them.

The law, passed last year to make it tougher for people to live and work in the state without proper documentation, includes a provision that requires all licensed professionals to prove their citizenship.

The Medical Association of Georgia said the law has created an administrative burden for physicians, and the small staff of Georgia's Medical Composite Board is bogged down trying to process license renewals for Georgia's 41,000 doctors and other medical professionals because of the requirement.

WSB-TV reported that some medical professionals have had to briefly stop seeing patients because of the delays.

Doctor's licenses must be renewed every two years. The task previously was done on a state website; doctors received immediate confirmation of their renewals after a few clicks and a payment.

Now, applicants must submit a notarized affidavit and identification proving U.S. citizenship, and the staff of the Medical Composite Board must review the information. The state said nearly a third of doctors are experiencing a delay of 10 or more days in renewing their licenses.

No one has been found who was living in the state illegally despite all the work.

"I can tell you that we have not found one yet, and so far we've processed about 28,000 of these," said Bob Jeffrey, operations director for the agency. "So far, everyone is legal."

The Medical Association of Georgia said it has been barraged with calls from doctors who are frantic about problems. The law prohibits unlicensed doctors from practicing medicine.

"We've received a number of complaints from our physician members discussing they've had a number of licensure delays," said Donald Palmisano Jr., executive director of the association.

Palmisano said the law has affected the way some doctors practice medicine.

"It's added another administrative burden to physicians, so it's taken away some time from their focus on patient care, and that's where the real concern is," Palmisano said.

Many groups are pushing lawmakers to make adjustments during their next session.

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