My CAP colleague and workforce guru Ellen-Marie Whelan is out with a new paper examining how community health centers (CHC) — one of the few portions of the health care law that both Republicans and Democrats can agree on — will help create jobs and stimulate local economies. As if answering the GOP’s age-old mantra of “where are the jobs?,” Whelan argues that at least 400,000 of them are in CHCs.
According to Whelan’s analysis, “the nearly $2 billion investment from the stimulus act, for example, generated $3.2 billion of economic activity in 2009, with health centers generating approximately $20 billion in economic activity for the communities where they are located.” By extension, the new funding for CHCs that’s part of health care reform ( $11 billion over 5 years) “will generate $54 billion in economic activity in 2015, with $33 billion of this a direct result of the additional investment in the new law” — that’s 457,300 jobs by 2015.
Whelan explains the job creation spiral this way: 1) health centers directly employ people in their communities, including key entry-level jobs, training, and other community-based opportunities. 2) health centers then purchase goods and services from local businesses and expand and build new locations. “These new health centers and the businesses that have ramped up to serve the centers also must hire new employees,” she writes. “Every dollar spent and every job created by health centers has a direct impact on their local economies.”
As pretty as these numbers are, they obscure some of the difficulties in getting community health centers off the ground and attracting enough primary care physicians to keep up with the expansion of services. In fact today’s Washington Post reports on the struggles primary care providers face in decidedly rural and underserved districts and the institutional and financial obstacles they have to overcome to keep those clinics running. The government has already invested “$1 billion from the stimulus and the health-care law into the National Health Services Corps to beef up doctor recruitment,” but I suspect that if we’re going to double the number of community center (and provide them with the resources they need) much more will be needed.