SEATTLE - When health care reform is fully in place in four years, it will mean almost 13,000 additional jobs for Washington in Community Health Centers, according to a new study from the Center for American Progress
. Study author and Associate Director of Health Policy Ellen-Marie Whelan says Community Health Centers around the country will need to expand in order to provide primary care to those who are now uninsured. She predicts that by 2015, they will employ a total of more than 20,000 people in Washington, and says the growth should also translate into a boost for other types of local businesses.
"The jobs will include folks who are actually serving patients - the doctors and nurses - as well as new jobs in the neighborhood as a result of these community health centers expanding and needing to purchase more services."
Critics of health care reform have said it will mean much more government spending. But Whelan explains that since primary care is more efficient, long-term costs to the government will go down. Keeping more people healthy should also be better for the economy, she adds. Although they didn't try to measure that in the study, she thinks it makes sense.
"Since you don't have to go to an emergency room or you're not hospitalized, you're able to stay and work longer, so you're more productive. Those kinds of measurements are just harder to make, but we can imagine that's exactly what's going to happen."
Of the 8,000 Community Health Center sites around the country, about 300 are in Washington. Run by community boards, they treat patients regardless of their ability to pay. They also received federal money for facilities and equipment as part of last year's economic stimulus program.