Viewpoint: Why the healthcare job boom isn't all positive

The healthcare industry recently surpassed manufacturing and retail for the first time in history to become the largest U.S. employer, but the industry's unchecked job boom has contributed to higher healthcare prices and has failed to translate into better patient outcomes, argues Nisarg Patel, a fourth-year student at Boston-based Harvard School of Dental Medicine and co-founder of Memora Health, in a STAT op-ed.

Here are four takeaways from the article.

1. Although U.S. policymakers could help improve patient outcomes and healthcare prices, they are more likely to focus on the healthcare job booms in their own states as an "economic win" rather than considering whether these jobs equate to better health for Americans across the nation, Mr. Patel wrote.

2. Labor costs account for over half of the total cost of healthcare delivery, Mr. Patel noted. As a result, when healthcare employment rises, healthcare prices rise too. These costs are then distributed to employers and patients through health insurance premiums, which increase at a rate that outpaces inflation.

3. Additionally, Mr. Patel argues the job boom does not necessarily translate to better quality healthcare, since the rapid employment growth is largely attributed to the addition of administrative and management jobs as opposed to more clinicians. 

4. The nation's administrative healthcare costs are the highest in the developed world, accounting for over one-fourth of the sector's spending, Mr. Patel wrote. Despite this surge in healthcare prices, Capitol Hill policymakers tend to support this growth, seeing it as a benefit for employment in their own district. "As job growth and industry consolidation leads many hospitals to become their district's largest employer, politicians will see less and less incentive to bend the cost curve of healthcare."

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