Health care reform is likely to increase dramatically the number of people in Colorado with health insurance coverage. But will increased coverage translate into increased access? Without question, accessing care will require a robust health care workforce adequately trained to deliver care in a transforming health care system.
During the past few years, the Colorado Health Foundation has looked closely at the need for Colorado to produce, and if nothing else, import, the health care professionals necessary to deliver primary physical, oral and mental health care for Coloradans.
While we fund one of the most competitive loan repayment programs in the nation, we’re well aware of the fact that we can’t simply “loan repay” our way out of the state’s potentially crippling workforce shortages. Granted, loan repayment is a valuable tool, but neither national nor local repayment programs are likely to increase the current lack of providers in Colorado’s vulnerable urban and rural communities.
So, what can be done to ensure there are enough health professionals to serve Colorado’s growing needs?
The Foundation is committed to maximizing the training and skills of the diverse array of physical, oral and mental health providers to deliver care within coordinated, patient-centered teams. It’s not just about the number of providers we produce, but the quality of the care provided.
To that end, the Foundation has committed funding to analyze the scope of practice opportunities within the state, enhance the training of primary care health care providers to serve rural and urban underserved populations and to train health professionals to work in interdisciplinary teams.
In addition to this commitment, we’d like to see new public, private and philanthropic partnerships emerge to address the long-term needs of Coloradans.
Given the looming demographic change our state will face, along with the impending retirements of baby boomer providers and a significant increase in health insurance coverage, the time to act is now.What ideas do you have to address Colorado’s health care workforce challenges? Submit your comments.