Health Care Jobs Grow – in Bureaucracy Rather than Care Delivery

Today’s Managing Health Care Costs Indicator is 95,000

That’s how many new jobs were created in health care so far this year – one of precious few sectors in the entire economy to show significant increase in jobs.

A Kaiser Health News article in today’s USA Today has some information that is even more scary than more health care jobs (which generally will mean continued growth in health care costs).  The new jobs being created are largely administrative.  Hospitals that cut their clinical staff after Medicaid cut rates are hiring up clerks and information technology staff.  Many attribute this new surge of nonclinical hiring in health care to the Affordable Care Act.  I expect to hear about this on the campaign trail. 

Hiring more nonclinicians in health care isn’t always bad.  Banks hired a lot of IT staff and shed many teller jobs – and the customer service experience of banking over time got better for most of us.  Hiring a few system engineers to smooth flow and increase capacity is often more cost effective and much better for patients than hiring a bunch of extra clinicians.   But while some of the newly-hired nonclinical staff could really improve health care (such as better IT systems that prevent medical errors), many of the new nonclinical staff are likely to be billing clerks or intermediaries making health care more expensive without any benefit to patients.