The healthcare sector has taken the mantle of a rescuer over the last few years, when unemployment reared its ugly head. Healthcare sector has been one of the bright spots, adding jobs to the economy when other sectors, such as construction and manufacturing, were forced to lay off workers while struggling to make ends meet in a harsh economy. Unfortunately, the rules of the game have changed, and healthcare has suddenly lost its potency in job growth. Over the last year, health care sector has been lagging behind with only 1.4 percent annual hiring rate in 2014, and Affordable Care Act could be the key reason behind this lag.
In an analysis of the last five years, healthcare hiring has been steadily declining. It was highest in 2008, when recession was at its peak, at 2.7 percent. By 2012 and 2011, the rate had fallen down to merely 1.8 percent, for the first time to drop below 2 percent since 2004. In 2013, healthcare hiring was at a measly 1.6 percent, far from its heartening self. A closer look within the sector reveals a mixed picture, with broad slowdowns in some areas and marginal increases in some.
• Physicians’ offices have demonstrated a minor increase in hiring, with 2.3 percent being the figure for the first 4 months of this year, as opposed to a steady 2 percent over the last two years.
• Hospitals are in poor shape, with only 0.1 percent hiring rate from January to April 2014. Last year, the rate was 0.3 percent, and has been roughly about 1.2 percent from 2008 to 2012. With increased pressure from the government, hospitals have been the hardest hit as they have had to make adjustment to their labor costs, which take up about 60 percent of a hospital’s budget.
• Another major hit came in Ambulatory Care Services department, with the hiring rate dropping down to 2.7 percent over the first four months of 2014. Last year, the rate was 2.9 percent, and the usual trend is of 3 percent plus.
• Nursing is a similar story. 0.3 percent is the hiring status from January to April, and it is gradually going down, owing to cuts in Medicare spending.
Although ACA might not be the sole contributor to this fall, an overall slow economy coupled with government cuts in spending and readjustment in the wake of ACA might be the culprit in question.
However, this decrease is a temporary game, and is a result of improvement efforts across the healthcare sphere. Most of these efforts are working to keep rising healthcare costs in check for a bigger picture benefit for the industry. For instance, the 2 percent reduction on payments to providers operating under Medicare is one such cost cutting. Similarly, the Affordable Care Act has expanded health coverage by readjusting how and what is paid by the government in an effort to cull the rate of growth of costs in healthcare domain. Naturally this effort, which has gone entirely toward reducing the costs in the sector, is going to impact jobs in the industry. The ACA has already affected lower costs across health care system, and some jobs might have been lost in that endeavor. However, more than that, more than the lost jobs, this decrease in spending can be countered by encouraging firms through incentives to hire additional workers. Ultimately, it is about controlling the healthcare spending, which might temporarily mean a loss of jobs.
The changes in government programs are attracting the most ire from primary care providers and nursing home unions. However, as a side effect of Obamacare’s efforts to control increasing health care costs, this temporary loss of jobs can be overlooked. The larger picture looks much better at the moment. Labor Department expects that over the next decade, health care would be home to 5 of 6 top occupations having largest employment growth rates, with personal care and home aides taking the largest chunk of the pie with nearly 50 percent growth.
Although ACA might be hitting health care hiring down to tragically low levels, it is doing so for the greater good of adjusting the sector and keeping the health care spending in check with federal spending cuts and strict cost controls. Over the next few years, the situation should get better.