Ethel Zimmerman Wiener Professor of Public Policy, HKS; Henry and Allison McCance Professor of Business Administration, HBS
The United States is in the throes of the most
serious recession in post-war history. Despite
improving employment numbers, the official unemployment
rate still exceeded 8% in March 2012. Amidst this malaise, the health care sector is one of the few
areas of steady growth.1 It may seem natural to think that if the health care sector is one of the
bright spots in the economy,public policies should aim to foster continued growth in health care employment. Indeed, hospitals and other health care organizations point to the size of their payrolls as evidence that
they play an important role in economic recovery, a role that must not be endangered by reforms
that seek to reduce spending on health care. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are
quick to emphasize the “job-creating” or “job-killing” aspects of reforms. But this focus on health care
jobs is misguided. 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.
Baicker, Katherine, and Amitabh Chandra. "The Health Care Jobs Fallacy." New England Journal of Medicine 366.26 (June 28, 2012): 2433-2435.