Washington, DC – In advance of a hearing this week before a House subcommittee, the American Health Care Association (AHCA) today outlined its core principles for immigration reform. AHCA will analyze each forthcoming piece of legislation through that lens, offering the Association’s support for measures that seek to expand access to direct caregivers in a profession that will rapidly expand over the next decade.
“A critical part of any immigration reform package must take into account ways to supply the U.S. economy with the workers it needs to recover from the downturn and grow,” said Gov. Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of AHCA. “We have ideas for workable solutions on this important issue, and will work with both parties in the coming weeks to tell the story of immigration as a story of personal success and achievement in a profession that cares for the greatest generation.”
On Thursday, March 14, Fred Benjamin - AHCA member and COO of Medicalodges in Kansas - will testify before the House Education & Workforce Subcommittee on Workplace Safety on the critical shortages of mid-level caregivers in skilled nursing centers across America. AHCA recommended the following principles in advance of the hearing and Mr. 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 long term care 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. health care 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. Such shortages could worsen as nurses contemplate retirement and leave the profession. 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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The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) represents more than 13,700 non-profit and proprietary skilled nursing centers, assisted living communities, sub-acute centers and homes for individuals with intellectual and development disabilities. By delivering solutions for quality care, AHCA/NCAL aims to improve the lives of the millions of frail, elderly and individuals with disabilities who receive long term or post-acute care in our member facilities each day. For more information, please visit www.ahca.org or www.ncal.org.