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