Harvard Economists: Employment Isn't the Goal of Healthcare Reform

Molly Gamble (Twitter) - Print  | 
The loss of healthcare jobs shouldn't be a factor when designing strategies to cut healthcare costs, according to an op-ed penned by two Harvard economists and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Politicians often label reform efforts as either job-creating or job-killing, but the economists say such a sharp focus on jobs is "misguided" and does not belong in conversations about healthcare reform.  

"The goal of improving health and economic well-being does not go hand-in-hand with rising employment in healthcare. It is tempting to think that rising healthcare 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," Katherine Baicker, PhD, and Amitabh Chandra, PhD, wrote.

Healthcare employment should not be a goal in policymaking nor a metric of success, the authors argue. "Treating the healthcare system like a [wildly inefficient] jobs program conflicts directly with the goal of ensuring that all Americans have access to care at an affordable price," according to the op-ed.

Dr. Baicker is professor of health economics in the department of health policy and management at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. Amitabh Chandra is an economist, a professor of public policy and director of health policy research at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

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