The new health care reform law, formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care
Act (ACA), will substantially increase the number of Californians who have health insurance.
Currently 8.2 million Californians, or 22% of our state’s population, lack health insurance. The
new law will improve access to health insurance in various ways, including developing a new
high-risk health insurance pool, expanding Medi-Cal, establishing health insurance exchanges,
and subsidizing health insurance premiums.
While the new law provides a major opportunity to improve the health of Californians, it also
poses a major challenge for California’s health care organizations. Insuring more people will
increase demand for care, further straining organizations that are already having difficulty
recruiting and retaining health professionals. Health care organizations in California face
shortages of health professionals, maldistribution of health professionals across the state, lack of
racial/ethnic diversity, and an aging workforce. These challenges are compounded by the
recession, which has substantially reduced State revenue and, thus, State funding for health
Fortunately, Congress recognized the challenges facing health care organizations and included a
number of provisions in the new law regarding health workforce analysis, health professions
education programs, and financial assistance for health professions students.
This paper reviews the impact of national health care reform on California’s health care
workforce. We discuss issues relating to our state’s health workforce needs and recommend
strategies for expanding California’s health care workforce and utilizing our present workforce