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AHCA promotes immigration reform before Congress to solve caregiver shortage

March 14, 2013
by Patricia Sheehan, Editor-in-Chief
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The American Health Care Association (AHCA) today will voice its support for comprehensive immigration reform and offer solutions to the nationwide mid-level caregiver staffing crisis before a House Education & Workforce Subcommittee on Workplace Protections. The Association will offer testimony during the Subcommittee’s hearing on guest worker programs in today’s economy.

“We’re hoping to bring attention to the need for comprehensive immigration reform by highlighting solutions to the chronic nursing shortage,” said Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of AHCA, in a statement. “There are solutions in immigration reform and we encourage Congress to take our recommendations into consideration and develop a plan that benefits U.S. workers, foreign workers, our nation’s elderly and persons with disabilities.”

Participating in the hearing will be Fred Benjamin, chairman of the Kansas Health Care Association and COO of Medicalodges, Inc., Coffeyville, Kan. Benjamin will speak about the challenges of providing access to high quality care in the face of chronic labor shortages in the long term and post-acute care profession. He will also recommend solutions for consideration by policymakers on the Subcommittee.

AHCA recommended the following actions in advance of the hearing and Benjamin’s testimony:

Let business and industry play a leading role.

The long-term and post-acute care profession is one of the largest job creators in the country and is willing and able to help drive solutions with Congress. Members of the LTC community employ immigrants and boost the economy. Any visa program must give employers, not the government, the primary say in which workers they need to staff their businesses. In addition, the labor market should also have the primary say in how many workers enter the country annually in a legal program.

Create a viable guest worker program that would accommodate the needs of U.S. healthcare providers.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) projects that, absent aggressive intervention, the supply of nurses in America will fall 36 percent (more than 1 million nurses) below requirements by the year 2020.  AHCA urges the inclusion of allowing employers access to previously unused H-1B temporary work visas for nurses and physical therapists. 

Waive the cap on employment-based visas for nurses and physical therapists, speech therapists and those providing other therapies.

The current temporary and permanent visa programs are insufficient and inadequate to accommodate the needs of U.S. healthcare providers. The permanent residence program provides approximately 5,000 annual visas for essential workers. Clearly, current programs cannot handle our continuing need for foreign-born, essential caregivers.

A recent study by AHCA conducted to identify the vacancy rate for nursing staff found that there were approximately 60,000 vacant direct care staff positions as of 2010. A study by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) estimates between 5.7 million and 6.5 million nurses, nurse aides, home health and personal care workers will be needed in the coming years to care for the 27 million Americans who will require long-term care by 2050.

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