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California Physicians: Surplus or Scarcity?

Craig Paxton, Cattaneo & Stroud

California's physician population has grown over the past 20 years. This report describes the landscape for physician services, including supply, physician demographics, education, and compensation.

The number of physicians in California increased 39% from 1993 to 2011, and has outpaced the state's 20% growth rate in the general population. Demand for physician services is expected to increase with the aging of the state's population and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Ensuring access to care is also a concern, as close to one-third of California's physicians are near retirement age.

California Physicians: Surplus or Scarcity? describes the current market landscape for physician services in California.

Key findings include:

  • Physician supply varied by region. The number of physicians in the Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley fell below the recommended supply of primary care providers and specialists.
  • The total number of physicians in California did not accurately reflect their availability to provide care. About 20% of all physicians devoted less than 20 hours a week to patient care.
  • Slightly more than 30% of California physicians were over the age of 60 — only New Mexico had a larger proportion of physicians in this age group.
  • Latinos were underrepresented among physicians. While 38% of the state's population was Latino, only 4% of physicians were Latinos.
  • More than three-quarters of California physicians attended medical school in other states or in foreign countries.
  • Physicians were less likely to serve Medi-Cal, Medicare, and uninsured patients in their practices than privately insured patients.

In the CHCF video series On Deck, workforce expert Ed O'Neil explains why the number of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals in a region doesn't tell the whole story.

The complete report, as well as the previous edition, is available under Document Downloads.

Infographic - Tale of Two Regions (California Physicians)

Almanac Updates

The CHCF Almanac regularly publishes data and analysis on California's health care market.


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