WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will announce today as much as $1 billion in funding to hire, train and deploy health care workers, part of the White House's broader "We Can't Wait" agenda to bolster the economy after Presiden Obama's jobs bill stalled in Congress.
Grants can go to doctors, community groups, local government and other organizations that work with patients in federal health-care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. The funds are for experimenting with different ways to expand the health care workforce while reducing the cost of delivering care. There will be an emphasis on speed, with new programs expected to be running within six months of funding.
Health care employment is growing steadily, with more than 300,000 jobs added in the past year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It has been one bright spot in the economy as unemployment has hovered around 9 percent. The bureau projects total employment in health care to grow by 3.2 million jobs by 2018, more than in any other sector.
At the same time, the country faces a doctor shortage. The Association of American Medical Colleges projects that the United States will have 63,000 fewer doctors than it needs by 2015. That shortage will grow to 130,600 doctors by 2025.
The need for a larger health care workforce will probably become particularly acute in 2014, when the health care overhaul is expected to expand health insurance coverage to millions of Americans. By 2019, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects, 32 million more Americans will have gained health insurance coverage.
Under this new program, organizations may be able to explore how community workers, volunteers, pharmacy techs or clinic managers could play a larger role in the health care workforce.