‘Shovel-ready clinics’

Right about now, policymakers could use some job-creation ideas that (a) would be effective, (b) could make a difference quickly; and (c) don’t cost a lot of money. Fortunately, Jeffrey Leonard has a suggestion.

In a new piece in the print edition of the Washington Monthly, Leonard makes the case for new jobs through “shovel-ready” health clinics. The editors’ summary of the story helps set the stage for an interesting piece:

Here’s a test to see whether Washington is really serious about fighting the unemployment problem: What if someone came up with an idea that would create tens of thousands of private-sector jobs through a program that both parties have long supported, and that wouldn’t cost the federal treasury a dime? In the November/December issue of the Washington Monthly, Jeffrey Leonard puts forward just such a modest but ingenious solution.

Leonard begins by identifying another problem we face as a nation: beginning in 2014, 32 million Americans will acquire health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but our health care system simply does not have the capacity to take all these new patients on. The brunt of this tsunami of patients will be borne by the nation’s ragtag network of Community Health Centers — non-profit clinics that offer primary care to the medically underserved, often in rural areas or inner cities.

These health centers need to expand, and fast. But there’s no need to appropriate billions in direct federal spending to get this done. Instead, Leonard describes a way to lure skittish banks into lending private capital to finance a health center construction boom, simply by tweaking the language of an existing small business lending program. Doing so would save money in the long run by providing cost-effective primary care to millions who desperately need it, and it would create tens of thousands of jobs, many in the hard-hit construction sector.

It’s a job creation idea so obviously good even Washington couldn’t say no … could it?

Read Leonard’s article “Shovel-Ready Clinics.”