If 3,600 jobs in Oregon just disappeared, you can bet someone would notice.
But an estimated 3,600 jobs that are likely to spring up in the wake of the Legislature’s recent health care reform legislation have gone all but unnoticed.
“There’s actually been very little talk about all the health care jobs — permanent, good, family-wage jobs that are going to be here in Oregon and are very difficult to export — that are going to be created as a result of this legislation,” Rep. Dave Hunt (D-Clackamas County) said at an August meeting of the Medical Society of Metropolitan Portland.
The legislation, HB 2116, expanded health care coverage to 80,000 Oregon kids and 35,000 low-income adults with a 1% tax on health insurers and a floating assessment on hospitals. It also lassoed $1 billion in federal matching health care funds.
The resulting 3,600 jobs — a prediction based on the standard software IMPLAN — will mostly be health care positions to tend to these new patients.
“The increased number of insured people will mean more people going to health care providers, which will require staff, supplies and services in every region of Oregon,” says Justin Dickerson, a regional economist with the state’s office of forecasting.
The provider tax also funded an additional 175 state jobs to help manage outreach and administrative services related to the expanded coverage.
Jo Isgrigg, executive director of the Oregon Healthcare Workforce Institute, said her organization has been watching other states, particularly Massachusetts, to see what effects expanded coverage has on the workforce.
“There’s huge demand for primary care practitioners,” she says, noting also that need goes up for nurses, physical and occupational therapists, and pharmacists, as well.
But because there’s already a health care worker shortage in Oregon, meeting any new demand won’t be easy.
It’s not clear yet, either, where these new health care jobs will materialize, though some could be at federally certified managed care organizations. Expected demand also gives a good hint: State data show that 45,000 of Oregon’s 104,000 uninsured kids live in four counties around Portland; another 32,000 live in Marion, Polk, Lincoln and Tillamook counties.
Priscilla Andres, human resources director for OHSU Healthcare, says that OHSU may hire additional staff as a result of HB 2116, but it’s too early to tell. But Marvin Hass, chief administrative and finance officer at Asante Health System, says that no new hiring is planned because many of the people who will be covered under HB 2116 have already been receiving care at Asante.
Another area not likely to be hiring anew: private sector pediatricians in Portland.
“Medicare and Medicaid reimburse at 55% of commercial insurance rates,” says Sharon Fox, executive director of the Children’s Health Alliance, a nonprofit association of 110 pediatricians in Portland. “Private practices want these kids, but being small businesses, they can’t take on more than what they do now.”