The health care industry has experienced a steady 22.7% increase in jobs compared to the slight 2.1% increase among other employment sectors over the past decade. And according to a study by the Altarum Institute, the national unemployment rate would be at 8.8% (a point higher than it currently is) if the industry hadn't started growing immediately following the recession in 2007.
This is happening for two reasons. The first reason is simply that we have more old people than ever, and most of them need frequent medical assistance in both the hospital and at home.
The second reason is a bit more complex: we are spending too much money on health care, despite the fact that us Americans are in poorer health than the rest of the industrialized world.
Yes, that's correct. We spend two-and-a-half times more than most developed nations in the world on health care but aren't healthier (or even as healthy).
These two elements are the main driving factors behind the spike in job creation we've witnessed in the health care industry. However, this increase will not remain steady.
The Affordable Care Act will create more jobs but also degrade some salaries. Health care professionals have started redistributing duties performed on patients, which will result in the changing salaries. Instead of doctors giving flu shots, nurses will. Instead of nurses taking the vitals of a patient, their assistants can take them. Most notably, home health aides — the fastest growing health care profession — will be able to monitor and prevent health problems that so often result in expensive hospitalization without proper care at home.
With a redistribution of skills to more efficiently care for a growing number of patients, the salaries of doctors will decrease as those of nurses and other health care professionals will increase.
As a result of cutting health care costs, this trend in health care will most likely begin slowing down. If it doesn't, we could be in serious trouble.
Health care spending, which is 18% of the U.S. economy, has been leading to personal bankruptcies and prohibiting other government priorities — like education issues — from being taken care of. If the health care industry remains on the incline, we will become even more desperate to make cuts in spending than we are now.
The increase in health care jobs has been the saving grace of the U.S. economy ever since the recession hit. Ironically, if it continues, health care jobs might come back to haunt us.