The Interplay Between Healthcare Systems and Immigration Backlogs: Economic Implications and Potential Solutions

Ben H.

Ben H.

Nov 23, 20234 min read


The Interplay Between Healthcare Systems and Immigration Backlogs: Economic Implications and Potential Solutions


The healthcare industry and immigration policies may seem like unrelated topics at first glance. However, a closer examination reveals that they are interconnected in ways that significantly impact the economy. This article explores the recovery of health systems' margins and the economic consequences of green card backlogs, shedding light on the challenges faced by both sectors and potential solutions.

Health Systems' Margins: A Mixed Recovery:

As the world continues to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare systems have faced unprecedented financial challenges. While margins have begun to recover, they are still not at pre-pandemic levels. Matt Wolf, director and healthcare senior analyst at RSM US, highlights that the growth in patient volumes and reduced reliance on contract labor have contributed to the partial recovery of health systems' finances. However, new threats loom on the horizon as more services transition to outpatient care and patients' homes. This shift is favored by payers and patients alike, indicating a continued movement in this direction.

Green Card Backlogs: An Economic Drain:

On the other hand, the United States is grappling with a different kind of challenge - green card backlogs. The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that the US is missing out on trillions of dollars in economic gains due to these worsening backlogs. Currently, approximately 7.6 million individuals find themselves stuck in queues for lawful permanent residency, with the majority being potential immigrants who are stranded outside the country. The report suggests that reducing barriers for new entrants and temporary visa holders already in the US could generate $3.9 trillion in gains for the GDP over a decade.

Understanding the Backlog and Its Impact:

While processing delays have contributed to the backlog, it is important to note that annual caps on green card issuance play a significant role. The State Department and US Citizenship and Immigration Services determine eligibility based on the date of immigration petition and the number of available visas. The report reveals that the economic impact of adjusting status may be underestimated for immigrants on temporary visas within the US. However, the majority of economic gains from reducing green card backlogs would come from adding new arrivals. This is due to the potential of these immigrants filling job vacancies that remain unfilled by US workers, addressing severe workforce shortages that continue to worsen as the population ages.

Addressing the Challenges and Unlocking Economic Potential:

To alleviate the strain on both healthcare systems' margins and the economy, actionable steps can be taken:

  • 1. Increase investment in outpatient care and telehealth: The transition of services to outpatient settings and patients' homes is a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. Healthcare systems should invest in expanding their outpatient infrastructure and leveraging telehealth technologies to ensure efficient and cost-effective care delivery. This would not only improve margins but also enhance accessibility and patient satisfaction.
  • 2. Reform immigration policies: To unlock the economic potential lost to green card backlogs, policymakers must prioritize immigration reforms. Reducing barriers for new entrants and temporary visa holders, particularly in high-demand sectors, would not only alleviate the strain on the economy but also address workforce shortages. Streamlining the green card application process, raising annual quotas, and removing country-specific limits are potential steps towards achieving this.
  • 3. Foster collaboration between healthcare and immigration sectors: Recognizing the interdependence between healthcare systems and immigration policies is crucial. Stakeholders from both sectors should collaborate to identify mutually beneficial solutions. For instance, healthcare systems can advocate for immigration reforms that address workforce shortages, while the immigration sector can explore visa programs tailored to the needs of the healthcare industry.


As health systems strive to recover their margins and the US economy seeks to harness the potential gains from reducing green card backlogs, it becomes evident that these seemingly disparate issues share common ground. By investing in outpatient care, reforming immigration policies, and fostering collaboration, sustainable solutions can be achieved. Only through a comprehensive approach can we address the challenges faced by healthcare systems and unlock the economic potential stifled by immigration backlogs.

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