Background Paper

The U.S. Health Workforce: Definitions, Dollars, and Dilemmas
April 11, 2003


Karen Matherlee


This background paper provides a comprehensive view of the structure of the health workforce. It explores public and private insurance coverage and payment policies, as well as discretionary grant programs, that govern it. The paper also looks at health workforce concerns: supplies of certain types of physicians, health workforce mix, challenges from complementary and alternative medicine, shortages of nurses and pharmacists (and some other practitioners), maldistribution issues, and lack of diversity in response to demographic changes. It presents proposals that are on the table to reform the health workforce, at a time when it is demanding greater attention from health policymakers.

Related Materials

See also "Nurse Workforce: Condition Critical" (Issue Brief 763, June 1, 2001).

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