IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Fact or fiction? Reform to strain nursing force

Claim: The health insurance overhaul may exacerbate nursing shortages in some states.

The number of unemployed has doubled since the start of the recession and stands at 15.3 million. But one bright spot in the recession has been the brisk hiring in the health care sector, which has added 631,000 jobs since December 2007. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 485,000 job openings in November in what it calls the "health care and social assistance" sector. The BLS said hiring of nurses will grow by more than 20 percent from 2008 to 2018, "much faster than the average for all occupations" -- creating 581,500 new jobs, "among the largest number of new jobs for any occupation." From New Jersey to Colorado, hospital executives and others are forecasting nursing shortages, partly due to an aging work force.

Fact or fiction?
Fact. Medicare actuary Richard Foster said the insurance legislation will spur "greater utilization of health care services by individuals becoming newly covered." He said that 38 million uninsured Americans would get covered by the insurance expansion mandated by the Senate bill. Adding to demand will be the number of people over age 65, which will nearly double between today and 2035. The insurance overhaul, said Barry Pactor, International Director of HCL International, a London-based health care consulting firm, "will add extra demands on an already overstressed system." Pactor’s firm helps nurses find jobs in the United States and other nations. "There's going to be a short- to mid-term problem" in the United States, he said. "That gap is going to need to be filled" while more nurses are trained, especially in medical specialties. One solution: more U.S. visas for nurses.

Send us a health care claim you'd like to investigate — and check back for your daily dose of reality. E-mail us at , submit your question on or tweet using the tag #doseofreality.