Fred Benjamin, chairman of Kansas Health Care Association, COO of Medicalodges Inc.

Saying the current permanent visa programs for immigrants are “insufficient and inadequate” to meet long-term care staffing needs, the American Health Care Association outlined in March a vision for immigration reform.

The association is asking for employers to have access to previously unused H-1B temporary work visas for nurses and physical therapists, and for the government to waive the cap on employment-based visas for nurses and physical therapists, speech therapists and those providing other therapies. There were approximately 60,000 vacant direct care staff positions as of 2010, according to an AHCA study.

The permanent residence program provides approximately 5,000 annual visas for essential workers, which is not enough to meet the demand. Long-term care providers are struggling to fill mid-level positions in skilled nursing centers, said Fred Benjamin, the chief operating officer of Medicalodges in Kansas. He testified before the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Workplace Safety on March 14.