1.10.20 / Studies

ISSUE BRIEF: Medicare for All and the Future of America’s Health Care Workforce

As baby boomers age and the U.S. population grows, America’s health care workforce is ill-equipped to meet the health care needs of the population under the current system. FTI Consulting’s independent economic analysis indicates that proposals to implement a Medicare for All system, specifically one that relies upon Medicare payment levels, threaten to accelerate the looming workforce crisis. The resulting effects on access to care stem not from deliberate denials of care under a new system, but instead from the diminished capacity of the health care workforce to meet the needs of the population. 

Already, the U.S. is facing a health care workforce shortage that could reach 151,000 direct care workers¹ and 121,300 physicians by 2030.² While the underlying causes of projected workforce shortages are varied and complex, most are tied directly to low reimbursement rates and the resulting negative effects on wages and staffing. Particularly for rural and underserved communities, extending Medicare payment systems to a broader population could have a significant negative impact on the adequacy of the country’s health care workforce, access to care, and, ultimately, patient outcomes.

Key Findings

  • Medicare for All, when fully implemented, could result in a nationwide loss of 44,693 physicians by 2050 relative to current projections.
  • By 2050, urban and rural areas alike could see a decrease of 5.4% in the supply of physicians.
  • The impact of Medicare for All on the primary care workforce would be particularly acute, resulting in a loss of 10,286 primary care physicians by 2050.
  • Shifting the entire U.S. population to Medicare would result in an estimated 16% cut to spending on patient care provided by physicians.
  • Medicare for All’s reimbursement cuts would result in 90% of hospitals across the country running consistent deficits, increasing the risk of hospital closures nationwide and negatively impacting the health care workforce.
  • The nursing workforce, already projected to reach shortage levels in seven states by 2030,³ could see a reduction of 1.2 million nationally by 2050 under Medicare for All.