The big engine that goes and goes

No doubt you’ve read about health care job cuts or freezes since the beginning of December.

Even the traditionally sound health care state of Minnesota (where modesty comes standard and unnecessary elective procedures are seen as just that) has announced trouble.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the nationwide number of health-related jobs has been decreasing along with the rest of the economy’s sectors. But it hasn’t. In fact, health care added 34,000 jobs in November as the nation’s economy shed a whopping 533,000. At a job fair last week in Galveston, Tex., health care professionals were being hired on the spot. Merrill Goozner writes on the job boom that has been health care:

The bottom line is that there are no signs yet that this downturn is affecting health care, which has been on a tear for decades. Since the trough of the last recession, home health care has added 343,000 jobs, making it the fastest growing field (up 54 percent). Outpatient facilities and diagnostic labs added a combined 202,000 jobs in this decade, a 37 percent hike. Firms that provide social assistance added a whopping 644,000 jobs, a 34 percent increase.

Doctors and dental offices in this decade added more than 622,000 jobs, but that was slightly less (24 percent) than the sector as a whole (26 percent). Hospitals and nursing homes were relatively slow growers by comparison, adding “only” 700,000 jobs (17.5 percent) and 373,000 jobs (14.2 percent), respectively.

Astounding. It’s too bad our economy can’t completely specialize in health care production. We seem to be pretty good at it when considered from a growth perspective. The problem is that unfettered growth used to be the end-all be-all; now we’ve entered a reality concentrated on value propositions and sustainability.

The job growth is good news, it really is. Something inside the economic engine needs to keep us going.

But we need to proceed carefully (walk softly and carry a big stick?). It will not continue in perpetuity. Disagree? Google News search: home values.  It’s not pessimism, it’s realism.

Health care is both adding and losing jobs.  What gives?  We’re late to the recession party. And as hard as Cinderella wishes off the midnight hour, time keeps ticking. The recession will negatively effect accounts receivable on three levels:

  1. Those individuals who are able to decide whether or not to become a patient are more likely to say no in the midst of a recession.
  2. 2008’s two million job losses means those former workers are losing insurance coverage.
  3. As dollars tighten at home, patients become less likely to pay their share of the medical bill.

It’s already begun.

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