The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has the potential to greatly increase the number of insured people and change how health care services are delivered. What the additional coverage will mean regarding access to providers, who those providers will be and what services they will deliver are issues that affect all segments of the health care workforce.
It will affect people in cities, those near academic medical centers, as well as people in rural areas with limited access. It will affect young and old (for whom there is already a shortage of geriatricians). It will affect physicians, nurses, other health care professionals and especially direct care workers, already the largest growing segment of the health care workforce.
Is there a pending shortage of primary care physicians and specialists? Where are these shortages – cities, rural areas, both? How is the Health Resources and Services Administration, the federal agency tasked with improving access to health care services for uninsured and medically vulnerable people, meeting the challenge? What happens when more than 30 million newly insured enter the market? Will there be an adequate direct care worker supply? Can new technologies and telemedicine help pick up the slack?
A distinguished panel of experts addressed these and related questions.
Marcia Brand, deputy director of HRSA, provided an update on the National Health Service Corps, training initiatives regarding primary care providers, rural initiatives and other workforce provisions covered by the ACA related to HRSA’s work.
Mario Gutierrez, executive director of the Center for Connected Health Policy in California, highlighted some of the center’s initiatives, including its telemedicine initiative to connect rural Californians to specialists in academic health centers.
Elizabeth Royal, senior health policy coordinator of Service Employees International Union Healthcare, provided the perspective of SEIU’s 1.2 million nurses, doctors and other health care workers who deliver the benefits of the health care law to their patients and consumers.
Ed Howard of the Alliance and Dan Cave, president and CEO of Nurtur Health (Centene’s wellness and disease management company) moderated the discussion.
The event was sponsored by the nonpartisan Alliance for Health Reform and The Centene Corporation.
This forum took place from 12:15 to 2:00 p.m. on Friday, March 22 at the Columbus Club in Union Station.