Dental and Medical Counsel Blog

What the New California Minimum Wage Means for Healthcare Workers

May 12, 2024
healthcare lawyer, healthcare attorney

In October 2023, California set a groundbreaking precedent for the healthcare industry by enacting Senate Bill 525, which significantly raises the minimum wage for healthcare workers across the state. This legislation redefines the economic landscape for healthcare employment and aims to enhance the living standards of thousands of workers within this critical sector. As healthcare facilities and workers adapt to these changes, it's crucial to understand the nuances of the law and its long-term implications. Dental & Medical Counsel is committed to helping healthcare providers navigate this transition, ensuring compliance while maintaining the quality of care their patients expect. What do you need to know about the new law, and how can you make sure your practice says in compliance?

Overview of Senate Bill 525 and Its Implications

Senate Bill 525 marks a significant shift in the wage structure for California's healthcare workers, setting a minimum wage that escalates to $25 per hour over the next few years. This increase is aimed at most healthcare facilities, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, and home health agencies, covering a broad spectrum of employees from medical assistants to housekeeping staff. The law intends to address income disparities within the healthcare sector and improve the economic well-being of those often on the lower end of the pay scale in these critical roles.

Furthermore, this legislation encompasses not only direct hires but also contracted and subcontracted workers who operate primarily within the premises of covered health facilities. This inclusive approach ensures that the wage increase benefits a comprehensive group of workers. The goal is to promote a more equitable working environment across the entire healthcare industry.

Detailed Timeline of the Minimum Wage Increases

The wage increase will commence in June 2024, with incremental raises planned until the $25 minimum wage is fully implemented by 2026, 2027, or 2028, depending on the size and type of facility. Large health systems and certain clinics in populous areas like Los Angeles County are on the fastest track, required to meet this wage standard by mid-2026. This staged implementation allows organizations a customized timeline to adjust financially and operationally to the increased labor costs.

In contrast, hospitals in rural areas and those serving a high percentage of Medi-Cal and Medicare patients have until 2033 to reach the $25 hourly rate. This extended timeline acknowledges the financial and operational challenges these facilities face, offering them a longer period to integrate the new wage structure without compromising patient care or financial stability. Be sure to reach out to a professional if you have questions about which timeline applies to your situation.


Doctor at the hospital talking to a nurse


Who Is Affected? Understanding the Scope

The new minimum wage law affects hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers across California, a substantial number of whom are women and workers of color. These employees work in diverse settings, from large hospital systems to small community clinics, and occupy various roles integral to healthcare delivery. The law's broad applicability ensures that its impact is felt across the entire spectrum of the healthcare industry.

In addition, the scope of the law extends to indirectly influence wage standards in neighboring facilities and sectors through spillover effects. This wider economic impact helps elevate wage standards across related industries and geographical areas, contributing to broader economic growth and stability in the state.

Direct Benefits to Healthcare Workers

  • Increased Earnings: The most direct impact of Senate Bill 525 is a significant increase in earnings for healthcare workers, amounting to thousands of dollars for each worker. This increase is projected to enhance these workers' overall financial stability and quality of life.
  • Reduction in Poverty and Public Assistance: Higher wages mean fewer healthcare workers will need to rely on public assistance programs, reducing the burden on public resources and fostering greater economic independence among workers.
  • Improved Job Satisfaction and Retention: Enhanced compensation is closely linked to improved job satisfaction, which can lead to higher retention rates among healthcare workers. This is particularly important in an industry facing chronic staffing shortages.
  • Spillover Effects to Related Occupations: Increased wages in healthcare can lead to wage boosts in related fields as employers adjust pay scales to attract and retain qualified staff across the board.
  • Enhanced Professional Esteem and Morale: Fair compensation reflects the value and respect that society places on healthcare workers, which can significantly boost morale and professional esteem.

Projected Economic Impact on Healthcare Facilities

While the wage increase is a positive change for healthcare workers, it presents financial challenges for healthcare facilities. Facilities must adjust their budgets to accommodate higher labor costs, which could initially strain resources, especially for smaller or financially constrained operations. This adjustment may lead to a short-term focus on cost management and efficiency improvements.

In the longer term, however, increased wages could lead to lower turnover rates and higher productivity, which may offset some initial financial impacts. Facilities might experience reduced costs associated with recruiting and training new staff, and improved worker morale could enhance the quality of patient care.

Challenges and Considerations for Small Clinics

Small clinics, in particular, face distinct challenges in adapting to the wage increase. These facilities often operate with tighter budgets and less financial flexibility than larger institutions. The increased wage bill may force some clinics to reconsider their service offerings or seek additional funding sources.

Furthermore, small clinics in rural or underserved areas might struggle more acutely with the financial implications of the wage increase. These clinics are essential for community health but may not have the patient volume or revenue streams to easily absorb higher costs.

Comparing Rural Versus Urban Impact

The impacts of Senate Bill 525 will vary significantly between rural and urban healthcare settings.


  • In rural areas, where healthcare facilities often face greater operational and financial challenges, the slower phase-in of the wage increase is a crucial concession. Rural healthcare providers typically have fewer resources and a smaller patient base, making the incremental wage adjustments more manageable. However, even with delayed implementation, these facilities may still struggle to balance higher wages with maintaining adequate staffing levels and quality of care.
  • Urban healthcare facilities, on the other hand, are likely to absorb the wage increases more readily due to larger budgets and higher patient volumes. These facilities might also benefit more quickly from the positive effects of wage increases, such as reduced staff turnover and improved morale. However, the competitive urban labor market may pressure these facilities to increase wages faster than mandated to attract and retain the best talent.

Strategies for Compliance and Adaptation

  • Financial Planning: Facilities must rigorously plan their budgets to accommodate the gradual wage increase. This might include reallocating resources or exploring new funding streams to cover the additional costs.
  • Operational Efficiency: Optimizing operational efficiency can help offset some financial burdens. This could involve streamlining processes, reducing waste, or improving patient flow to increase revenue.
  • Staffing Strategies: Facilities might need to revise their staffing models, potentially employing more part-time workers or adjusting staff roles and responsibilities to maintain financial stability.
  • Engagement with Stakeholders: Healthcare facilities must maintain open lines of communication with stakeholders, including employees, to manage expectations and foster a collaborative approach to the changes.
  • Seeking External Advice: Consulting with financial and legal experts can provide facilities with strategies and insights to navigate the transition more effectively.


healthcare lawyer, healthcare attorney


Long-Term Effects on Healthcare Quality and Access

The long-term effects of the new minimum wage law are expected to be positive. Higher wages can lead to a more satisfied and stable workforce, which is crucial for maintaining high standards of patient care. As healthcare workers gain more disposable income, their increased spending power can stimulate local economies.

Furthermore, better compensation reduces the necessity for healthcare workers to hold multiple jobs, which can decrease fatigue and improve focus and performance at work. This shift is expected to contribute to lower error rates and higher-quality patient interactions, ultimately enhancing healthcare access and outcomes.

What Do Practices Need To Do To Comply With The New Law?

To comply with Senate Bill 525, healthcare practices must understand the specifics of the wage increase timelines and who is affected within their workforce. It’s important to adjust payroll systems and inform all employees about the changes to ensure transparency and compliance.

In addition, practices should regularly review their financial and operational strategies to adapt to the increased labor costs. This might involve assessing patient fees, optimizing service offerings, or exploring efficiency-enhancing technologies. Staying informed about any further legislative changes or amendments to the bill is also crucial.

Contact Dental & Medical Counsel for Help With All of Your Potential Regulatory Concerns

Addressing the complexities of new labor laws like Senate Bill 525 can be a steep challenge for healthcare practices. Dental & Medical Counsel is here to help. Our team of experts can provide the legal and regulatory guidance needed to ensure your practice not only complies with these changes but thrives in the evolving healthcare landscape. Don't let regulatory changes slow down your practice. Contact us today for strategic advice and tailored solutions that help you adapt confidently and efficiently.


Schedule a Complimentary Consultation 


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Senate Bill 525, and what are its implications for the healthcare industry?
A: Senate Bill 525 is a groundbreaking legislation enacted in October 2023 in California, significantly increasing the minimum wage for healthcare workers across the state. It aims to address income disparities within the healthcare sector and improve the economic well-being of thousands of workers, setting a minimum wage that escalates to $25 per hour over the next few years.

Q: What is the timeline for the minimum wage increases mandated by Senate Bill 525?
A: The wage increase commences in June 2024, with incremental raises planned until the $25 minimum wage is fully implemented by 2026, 2027, or 2028, depending on the size and type of healthcare facility. Large health systems and certain clinics in populous areas are required to meet this wage standard by mid-2026, while hospitals in rural areas have until 2033.

Q: Who is affected by Senate Bill 525?
A: The new minimum wage law affects hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers across California, including direct hires, contracted, and subcontracted workers operating within covered health facilities. It aims to improve the economic well-being of workers, particularly women and workers of color, across various healthcare settings.

Q: What are the direct benefits of Senate Bill 525 to healthcare workers?
A: The bill brings increased earnings, reduction in poverty and reliance on public assistance, improved job satisfaction and retention, spillover effects to related occupations, and enhanced professional esteem and morale for healthcare workers.

Q: How will Senate Bill 525 impact healthcare facilities financially?
A: While the wage increase is positive for workers, it presents financial challenges for healthcare facilities, requiring adjustments to budgets to accommodate higher labor costs. However, in the long term, increased wages could lead to lower turnover rates, higher productivity, and improved patient care quality.

Q: What challenges do small clinics face in complying with Senate Bill 525?
A: Small clinics may face distinct challenges due to tighter budgets and less financial flexibility than larger institutions. They might need to reconsider service offerings or seek additional funding sources to absorb the increased wage bill.

Q: How do rural and urban healthcare settings differ in their adaptation to Senate Bill 525?
A: Rural facilities, with fewer resources, might find the phased-in wage increase more manageable, while urban facilities might absorb the increases more readily due to larger budgets and higher patient volumes.

Q: What strategies can healthcare practices adopt to comply with Senate Bill 525?
A: Practices should engage in financial planning, optimize operational efficiency, revise staffing strategies, maintain stakeholder engagement, and seek external advice to navigate the transition effectively.

Q: What are the long-term effects of Senate Bill 525 on healthcare quality and access?
A: Higher wages are expected to lead to a more satisfied and stable workforce, lower error rates, higher-quality patient interactions, and ultimately, enhanced healthcare access and outcomes.

Q: How can Dental & Medical Counsel assist healthcare practices in complying with regulatory changes like Senate Bill 525?
A: Dental & Medical Counsel provides legal and regulatory guidance to ensure compliance with evolving labor laws like Senate Bill 525, helping practices adapt confidently and efficiently to the changing healthcare landscape. Contact us for strategic advice and tailored solutions.


About the Author

At Dental & Medical Counsel, we've been instrumental in realizing the practice goals of countless dentists. Whether you're looking to purchase, launch, or sell a dental practice, our expertise is your guide. Beyond the initial stages, we're committed to ensuring your dental practice remains legally compliant.

We provide comprehensive support, including employment law protections, dental contract reviews, and assistance with dental employment agreements. Additionally, we specialize in incorporating dental practices and securing trademarks. And for long-term planning, our services extend to helping dentists with succession and estate planning. Trust us to be your partner in every step of your dental practice journey.

Ali Website 1_edited (1)

About Ali Oromchian, Esq.

Your Dental Lawyer

Ali Oromchian, JD, LL.M. is the founding attorney of the Dental & Medical Counsel, PC law firm and is renowned for his expertise in legal matters

Ali Oromchian, JD, LL.M., is a leading legal authority in dental law and the founding attorney of Dental & Medical Counsel, PC, with over two decades of experience. His deep connection to dentistry comes from his wife's nearly two-decade-long career as a pediatric dentist. 

This personal insight fuels his dedication to empowering dentists to navigate their legal challenges and achieve their practice goals. In doing so, Ali has helped thousands of doctors open their practices while maintaining legal compliance. 

Ali is frequently quoted and contributes articles to dental publications, including the California Dental Society, Progressive Dentist, Progressive Orthodontists, Dentistry Today, Dentaltown, and The New Dentist magazines, further showcasing his commitment to the dental community.


Subscribe to Our Blog

Stay updated with industry news!