With the presidential election fast approaching, health care reform is one of the largest topics of debate among candidates. Obama wants to see his health care reform bill passed and Republicans want nothing more than to have it repealed. As the debate continues, many experts have mixed feelings on whether the reform will create more jobs or, in fact, dampen the jobs growth.
At the core of its supporter’s thoughts, the health care reform will decrease the number of uninsured people in the country and increase the need for more healthcare workers. Ideally, the demand will cause an increase in hiring and a strong jobs growth for the industry. With the healthcare industry already being one of the nation’s leading employers, this will likely boost it to much higher levels. Even so, the reform is thought to create more jobs and that is what the majority of the country wants to see from the 2012 election.
While the jobs increase wouldn’t necessarily be in doctors or nurses but rather in healthcare support positions, any large jobs increase would be beneficial to our market. Many experts are using the Massachusetts health care insurance reform law from 2006, favored by then-governor Mitt Romney, as proof that healthcare reform can spark jobs growth. After the Massachusetts reform was passed, healthcare employment in the state increased 9.5 percent between December 2005 and September 2010 while elsewhere in the country there was only a 5.5 percent increase. In more concrete numbers, had the state’s growth rate matched the rest of the country’s, there would have been 18,000 fewer jobs created. Furthermore, since the reform was passed the state’s overall nonfarm employment has declined only by 0.2 percent while the rest of the country’s decreased by about 2.9 percent.
By looking at the two years before the reform and the two years after, experts can see that the healthcare’s job force increased greatly compared to the rest of the country and can attribute it to the reform indefinitely. Over that time period, administrative jobs saw an 18 percent increase while the rest of the country only saw an 8 percent increase. The non-administrative positions such as therapists, technicians and aids also rose 18 percent with the rest of the country increasing only 11 percent. The only decrease the state saw as a result was in actual healthcare professionals such as doctors and nurses-Massachusetts only saw a 3 percent increase in these positions while the rest of the country saw around 6 percent.
Many still don’t believe that the success of Massachusetts’ reform can be applied to the rest of the nation. They cite the fact that the state had a very low uninsured population prior to the reform and had a relatively high per-capita rate of doctors and nurses. In any case, supporters push for the reform in hopes of jobs growth and a healthier country in general. With an increase in healthcare workers such as care coordinators, the overall health of the country will likely increase as well. Think of it this way, a care coordinator’s job is to follow-up with a patient after a procedure making sure they follow the doctors orders and understand how to navigate the healthcare system. Without positions such as this, patients discharged from the hospital are very likely to dismiss a doctor’s precautions and follow-up procedures and will likely find themselves back in the hospital only a month later. This increases the cost of care for the country overall.
If repealed, the increase of positions such as this will be much slower and that means slower growth in general for the country. “If the ACA is repealed, it will be business as usual — except that more of the population is now uninsured — so the demand for primary care professionals will increase much more slowly,” said Leemore Dafny, an economist at Northwestern University who focuses on competition in healthcare markets.
There’s truly no way of knowing 100 percent that this healthcare reform will benefit the country or increase the healthcare industry’s job market growth. Much like many other reforms that are being hard-pressed to pass, it’s full of both boasted advantages and disadvantages. All you can do as a citizen and voter is research, read and understand what each candidate’s opinion is on the topic. With that knowledge, you can decide who and what you want to believe and support.