Health Care Worker Shortages Loom as Boomers Age

According to a new study published in Health Affairs, immigrants (both citizens and non-citizens) make up a disproportionate share of workers caring for the elderly and disabled.

The study found that more than 25% of direct care workers and 30.3% of nursing home housekeeping and maintenance workers are immigrants. Immigrants also account for more than 18.2% of the total health care workforce.

According to the Institute of Medicine, 3.5 million more health care workers, on top of the 3 million currently employed, will be needed by 2030 as the Baby Boomer population ages. Immigrant health care workers, who tend to have more education than nonimmigrant health-care workers, are needed to fill these roles.

The study comes as President Donald Trump seeks congressional support for cutting back on immigrant visas for relatives of U.S. citizens and replacing them with merit-based visas obtained through a points system.

“Policies curtailing immigration will likely compromise the availability of care for elderly and disabled Americans,” wrote lead study author Leah Zallman, MD, MPH, of Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts.

Source: The Washington Post, June 5, 2019.