Biting the hand that feeds you, sutures you, fills your prescription…

Immigrants are key to the US economy, especially in health care. A study of the health care workforce in Massachusetts documents the large percentage of slots filled by foreign-born professionals. Not just doctors, but pharmacists, nurses, home care workers, medical technicians and so on. See Immigrants make mark in health care work force in the Boston Globe.

According to the study, the percentage of foreign-born pharmacists doubled from 20 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2005. Physician assistants rose from 11 percent to 28 percent and paramedics increased from 4 percent to 14 percent.

Other occupations with significant numbers of immigrants included foreign-born physicians and surgeons, who were 28 percent of their field in 2005, opticians (22 percent), licensed practical and vocational nurses (21 percent) and dentists (17 percent).

I haven’t seen the methodology for the study (by profs from U Mass, Tufts, and UC Berkeley) and have a feeling that some of the numbers could be a little shaky. It hardly matters, though, to the overall message, which is that immigrants are fundamental. Squeeze off immigration and we’ll be in even more serious trouble than we already are.

Quite a bit of the anti-immigration fervor has focused on how immigrants (legal and illegal) put a strain on the health care system. While I’m sympathetic to the specific communities where this occurs, it’s worth noting that when it comes to health care overall, immigrants provide a lot more than they receive. (That’s something that’s been documented.) Those who want to keep immigrants out should be prepared to wait longer to see a doctor and lose the chance to consult with their pharmacist.

Ironically, the only real beneficiaries of anti-immigration policies for health care workers are the home countries of those workers who would would otherwise be in the US.

We need to make the US more hospitable to health care immigrants rather than less.

March 24, 2008

15 thoughts on “Biting the hand that feeds you, sutures you, fills your prescription…”

  1. Sir: does that mean you are offereing your home as a haven for illegal immigrants? And to give up your work assignments to illegal immigrants who are paid in cash? Because that is what it is like, outside Harvard Business School — ask Mitt Romney. You really need to connect with reality on a more-regular basis, sir.

  2. I’m not planning to offer my home but I am planning to vote for candidates with liberal views on immigration and don’t plan to blame immigrants –whether illegal or legal– for our country’s problems or my personal problems.

    By the way many illegal immigrants pay taxes and yet can’t benefits from programs like Social Security whose finances they are propping up.

  3. There really isn’t a concerted effort to block all immigration forever, so let me suggest rethinking that claim.

    And, most of the concerns about healthcare costs are due to low-wage workers, not the types discussed here.

    And, there are many costs involved in the whole issue that single studies don’t discuss. Many costs aren’t discussed in any studies, such as politically-related costs.

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  5. TLB is correct, there are millions of dimensions to the illegal (not legal) immigration issue that the few one-sided citations here do not even touch on. To wit:

    http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=55135

    For 645,000 more —

    http://www.google.com/search?q=illegal+heritage&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

    “Truth” definitely seems “out,” in this space that takes a position on illegal immigration that is out of sync with 65% of the U.S. population.

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  8. I have seen a person come through a drive-thru to the pharmacy with latest car model, Dunkin Coffee, Cell phone on hand. Complaining WHY A COPAY $1 or whatever under the state Ins! I have hardly to see a immigrant complain if the cash price or price of med. (BEACAUSE THEY HARDLY SEE THEM COME IN TO THE PHARMACY or IF ANY SEEK HEALTHCARE )Immigration is scape goat subject! **Great ARTICLE would like to see MEDIA using the document more often.

  9. As a social worker in the area of oncology, I would like to believe this is true. But from first hand experience seeing how very expensive cancer resources are utilized, I differ with this writer’s opinion. I also think it’s quite unfair to lump legal and illegal immigrants together when clearly the furor is over illegal immigrants overburdening our healthcare system. If the analysis were limited to illegal immigrants the results would confirm what the public knows intuitively. The number of legal immigrant healthcare workers certainly is dwarfed by the number of illegal immigrants utilizing increasingly expensive and restricted healthcare resources. The real losers are the legal working poor who are facing increasing loss of insurance benefits as well as restriction of policy coverage in existing benefits. They are this social worker’s new clients.

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