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Immigrants in the workforce – and implications thereof

One of every seven workers in the US is foreign-born.

About half are Hispanic and a quarter Asian.  About a third of the foreign born workers are undocumented.

We’ll leave aside the problems with immigration regulation, drivers thereof, lazy Americans, and all the rest of the and focus on the impact of these foreign-born folks on workers’ comp.

Today’s WorkCompWire features a piece by friend and colleague Peter Rousmaniere on the subject; Peter’s been tracking this very closely for years, and is the most knowledgeable person I know on the subject.  Here’s a key passage:

When you estimate the number of future work injuries, taking into account the injury rates of the individual jobs and their expected growth of openings, you find that immigrant workers will likely sustain 20% — one of every five – of work injuries. (emphasis added)

Here are just a few of the implications I see; as the acknowledged expert Peter’s got a much deeper and broader perspective.

  • Most of these workers likely won’t know much about the US health care system or workers’ comp, and will get that information from people they know and trust – their fellow countrymen.
  • Many may not have primary care physicians, so will seek care at the most convenient/nearest location.
  • The language issues are both obvious and subtle; even those with passable English skills may not fully grasp what they’re hearing and reading, leading to mis-interpretations and misunderstanding.

With the share of jobs held by first-generation immigrants going to increase steadily for the foreseeable future, payers and service companies alike are going to have to alter their practices to accommodate an evolving workforce.

What does this mean for you?

Recognizing the reality will be much more productive than ranting about it.

4 thoughts on “Immigrants in the workforce – and implications thereof”

  1. If about a third of foreign workers are undocumented, wouldn’t that impact (suppress) the number of reported Worker Comp injuries? One would guess that if workers are undocumented, they may not want to seek treatment, or wait until a situation is emergent then seek care which could shift costs away from Workers Comp? Just a thought.

  2. I have to disagree with you Greg. There are an ABUNDANCE of Work Injury commercials in the Hispanic community. They are all over the Spanish channels and radio stations. Many radio stations have local defense attorneys on regularly who address the fact that undocumented illegal immigrants have rights and should indeed report on the job injuries.

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates




A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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