The United States is increasingly relying on foreign-born health workers to fill health care gaps. In today’s New York Times, IntraHealth’s Dr. Kate Tulenko discusses the dire economic and social consequences of this practice and how it threatens the quality of care both in source countries and in the US.
The following is an excerpt from “America’s Health Worker Mismatch” by Kate Tulenko, The New York TimesSeptember 14, 2012.
Despite high unemployment, there is one bright spot in the economy: while nearly all other sectors shrank during the recession, jobs in health care increased by more than 1.2 million, with most paying salaries of over $60,000. And demand for those workers will keep improving: the Affordable Care Act will add 32 million people to insurance rolls over the next several years while the aging of America will drive the need for health care for decades to come.
But for American health workers, this is hardly good news. Despite a labor shortage, our crowded medical professional schools are turning away hundreds of thousands of qualified applicants; to fill the gap, we are importing tens of thousands of foreign workers. Today about 12% of the health workforce is foreign-born and trained, including a quarter of all physicians.
That’s bad for American workers, but even worse for the foreign workers’ home countries, including some of the world’s poorest and sickest, which could use these professionals at home.