Tuesday, July 3, 2012

NEJM: The Health Care Jobs Fallacy

Did you catch the June 28, 2012 editorial in the NEJM titled, "The Health Care Jobs Fallacy?"

The authors Katherine Baicker, Ph.D., and Amitabh Chandra, Ph.D. write:

The goal of improving health and economic well-being does not go hand in hand with rising employment in health care. It is tempting to think that rising health care employment is a boon, but if the same outcomes can be achieved with lower employment and fewer resources, that leaves extra money to devote to other important public and private priorities such as education, infrastructure, food, shelter, and retirement savings.

They go on to say:

Salaries for health care jobs are not manufactured out of thin air — they are produced by someone paying higher taxes, a patient paying more for health care, or an employee taking home lower wages because higher health insurance premiums are deducted from his or her paycheck. Additional health care jobs leave Americans with less money to devote to groceries, college tuition, and mortgage payments, and the U.S. government with less money to perform all other governmental functions — including paying teachers, scientists, and social workers.

They end with:

The bottom line is that employment in the health care sector should be neither a policy goal nor a metric of success. The key policy goals should be to achieve better health outcomes and increase overall economic productivity, so that we can all live healthier and wealthier lives.

I've only taken sections from the editorial, but what do you think? We are seeing growth in health care jobs, but is this a good thing? Are we misdirecting resources that could be used more effectively to improve health care delivery?

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