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Informing Policy. Advancing Health.

New CHI analysis gives first look at need for primary care providers after health care reform

December 12, 2011

A new analysis by the Colorado Health Institute (CHI) estimates that Colorado will need to add between 83 and 141 primary care providers – physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants – to care for the estimated 510,000 Coloradans who will become insured under federal health reform beginning in 2014.

CHI is answering, for the first time in Colorado, the question of how the influx of a half million newly insured residents between 2014 and 2016 will affect Colorado’s health care delivery system.

Conventional thinking had pointed to an overwhelming need for primary care workers in the wake of health reform. CHI’s findings, however, suggest a more manageable number.

It is important to note, however, that the new analysis refers solely to the need created by those becoming insured because of the Affordable Care Act.  Ongoing primary care challenges in Colorado – current shortages in rural, frontier and underserved urban areas combined with population growth, an increase in the percentage of older Coloradans,  an increase in the number of primary care providers reaching retirement age and the trend toward providers choosing specialty care rather than primary care – are not included in these numbers.

In the areas of Colorado already struggling with shortages, the need to attract even a small number of doctors and nurses will be challenging. And low-income Coloradans who have difficulty finding affordable medical care now will continue to encounter obstacles after a half million people enter the system.

"Essentially, the fault lines in Colorado’s health care infrastructure will most likely widen, especially during the early phases of implementation," said Michele Lueck, president and CEO of CHI.

For more information:

In addition, the publication contains data gathered by CHI that are intended to help community-level planning for the changes expected under the Affordable Care Act, including population demographics, the primary care workforce, the safety net and health insurance status. The data are presented for each of the state’s 21 Health Statistics Regions. Download the planning guide here.