California’s Physician Supply and Distribution: Headed for a Drought?

Janet Coffman, Professor, UCSF School of Medicine, Institute for Health Policy Studies
Margaret Fix, UCSF School of Medicine, Institute for Health Policy Studies
Michelle Ko, University of California, Davis


The people in California’s communities rely on physicians — primary care providers and specialists alike — to keep them healthy. This report, compiled using data from surveys completed by doctors when they renewed their medical licenses in 2015, provides a snapshot of who those physicians are, where they work, and what kind of medicine they practice.

The overall picture is one of an aging pool of qualified physicians who are distributed unevenly across the state’s rural and urban areas. Additionally, all doctors were more likely to accept patients with any type of health insurance over uninsured patients, but they tended to accept other types of health insurance over Medi-Cal.

Key highlights include:

  • Less than half (61,196) of the state’s licensed medical doctors provided patient care for more than 20 hours per week.
  • Latinos and African Americans were substantially underrepresented in the workforce; only 5% of doctors identified as Latino, a group that constitutes 38% of California’s general population.
  • The distribution of both primary and specialty care physicians was uneven across the state, with the Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley regions having half as many physicians per 100,000 residents as the Greater Bay Area.

The full report is available below.