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Retrogression Update: HCA Commends White House, Congress for Moving Forward on Immigration Reform

But Reiterates Need to Include Long Term Care
Worker Language in any Final Agreement

For Immediate Release
May 22, 2007

Wasington, DC –Despite the fact the recently-passed U.S. Senate immigration bill fails to include necessary language to help boost the supply of long term care workers in the U.S. workforce, the American Health Care Association (AHCA) today praised the Bush Administration and Congress for making a constructive, bipartisan effort to jumpstart a comprehensive immigration overhaul, and said seniors and the long term care profession alike have an enormous stake in ensuring acceptable, effective guest worker and nursing shortage provisions are included in any final bill.

“Despite an impasse on a variety of other legislative fronts, the Bush Administration and Congress deserve praise and support from the long term care community for moving closer to passing one of the most significant and needed governmental reforms in decades,” stated Bruce Yarwood, President and CEO of AHCA. “It is unfortunate the Senate’s immigration package did not specifically address long term care, and we intend to ensure that guest worker and nursing shortage language like that offered by U.S. Representatives Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is advanced through this process and included.”

Yarwood said that while AHCA is still studying the entire bill, the Gutierrez-Flake “Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy (STRIVE) Act” includes “reasonable and realistic language that will help us ensure a chronic staffing shortage in our long term care facilities does not become a national health care catastrophe in the decades ahead.”

The AHCA President and CEO noted that America’s health care system, in particular, is straining due to a shortage of key caregivers necessary to care for a rapidly aging population. From the standpoint of long term care, he said facilities nationwide “are ready, willing, and able” to offer tens of thousands of good-paying jobs that, if filled, will help continue improving the quality of seniors’ care in nursing homes.

“It is an undeniable fact that many of the jobs being created by America’s economy are jobs American citizens simply are not filling – in fact, jobs no one is filling,” continued Yarwood. “Our laws should allow willing workers to enter our country to help fill this void after all security concerns have been satisfied, and we are especially interested in seeing through to final passage a bill codifying the specific need to fill key frontline care giving positions.”

The high demand for long term care workers is already documented by the federal government as well as by AHCA/NCAL. A recent study by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) estimates the U.S. will need between 5.7 million to 6.5 million nurses, nurse aides, home health and personal care workers by 2050 to care for the 27 million Americans who will require long term care – up over 100% from the 13 million citizens requiring long term care in 2000.

In addition, an AHCA study examining staff vacancy rates in our nation’s nursing homes found approximately 52,000 Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) are needed immediately – just to meet existing demand for care.

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