WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Health care reform under the Affordable Care Act is off to a sickly start. There have been problems with the main marketplace website, calls for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ resignation, tepid enrollment numbers, and a series of presidential apologies.
But there’s some good news amid all the bad: A new report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies says a health care employment boom is on the horizon, riding in on the coattails of the embattled Affordable Care Act.
According to the report, Affordable Care Act of 2010: Creating Job Opportunities for Racially and Ethnically Diverse Populations, the health care sector could add 4.6 million jobs over the next decade – a 31 percent increase in the industry.
“The goal of this report is to provide knowledge that can help foster and enhance racial/ethnic diversity of the health care workforce,” the authors write. “If we assume the current racial and ethnic distribution of the health care workforce persists, we would expect that in the future at least one-third of the total health care workforce will comprise people of color [emphasis theirs].”
As of last month, the unemployment rate for African Americans was 12.7 percent. At the same time, total unemployment within the health care industry was at 4.2 percent. Currently, Black professionals make up 15 percent of the health care workforce, most of them registered nurses, nursing aides, orderlies, and home care attendants.
Health care offers a high level of job security. Even without the ACA, the industry will continue to expand, as it has for decades. In fact, the industry was one of the few that continued to grow and hire during the Great Recession (in 2009 its unemployment rate was 5.3 percent; the national rate peaked at 10 percent that year, and 16.1 percent for African Americans). With the graying of America, continued widespread chronic illness, and the ACA’s impact on hiring rates, the demand for health care professionals is poised to escalate.
Medical positions involving office and emergency visits are expected to flourish most. By 2020, the report predicts an influx of 711,900 registered nurses alone. Nursing aides, medical administrators, pharmacy and some medical technicians,(such as those who draw blood or operate x-ray machines, will also be in demand.