Tag Archives: Manufacturing

Health Care Top US Employer and What It Means for Medical Travel

Back to the real world of health care, et. al.

Last week, The Atlantic magazine reported that the US health care industry has supplanted manufacturing and retail to become the largest source of jobs in the US.

The article, by Derek Thompson, reports that for the first time in history, in the last quarter, there are now more jobs in health care than in the two industries that were the leading job engines of the 20th century.

According to Thompson, in 2000, there were 7 million more workers in manufacturing than in health care, and at the beginning of the Great Recession, there were 2.4 million more workers in retail than in health care.

Thompson says that there are three main drivers of the boom in health care jobs.

  • First, Americans as a group are getting older. By 2025, one-quarter of the workforce will be older than 55 (your humble blogger). This will have doubled in just 30 years. It will have a profound economic and political impact, such as declining productivity and electoral showdowns between a young, diverse workforce and an older, whiter retirement bloc. [True in the last election.] The most obvious effect of an aging population will be that it needs more care, and more workers to care for them.
  • Second, health care is publicly subsidized. The US spends hundreds of billions of dollars on Medicare, Medicaid, and benefits for government employees and veterans. [The recent tax bill passed will make substantial cuts to many of these programs, or outright privatize them.] The US also subsidizes private insurance through tax breaks for employers who sponsor health care.
  • Third, two of the most destabilizing forces for labor in the last generation have been globalization and automation. They have hurt manufacturing and retail by offshoring factories, replacing human arms with robotic limbs, and dooming fusty department stores. Health care is resistant to both. While globalization has revolutionized supply chains and created a global market for manufacturing labor, most health care is local. A Connecticut dentist isn’t selling her services to Portugal, and a physician’s receptionist in Lisbon isn’t directing her patient to Stamford. [I take exception here, as many of you will too. It seems Mr. Thompson has not heard of Medical Travel, both inbound and outbound, and therein lies your problem.]

Finally, the growth in health care employment is more located in administrative jobs than in physician jobs. The number of non-physicians has exploded in the last two decades. Most of these jobs are administrative such as receptionists and office clerks. It is not clear that these workers improve outcomes for patients.

Robert Kocher, a senior fellow at the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at USC said the following, “Despite all this additional labor, the most meaningful difference in quality over the past 10 years is the recent reduction in 30-day hospital readmissions from an average of 19 percent to 17.8 percent.”

One other point Thompson notes, is that categories like retail and health care are imperfect approximations, and that some categories are too restrictive, and some are too broad. He points out that there are more jobs in leisure and hospitality than in health care. [Which would explain why some in Medical Travel are more like travel agents, than medical professionals.]

So, while there is good news about the position of health care employment in the US, the downside is, at least as far as Medical Travel is concerned, that globalization may not have as much of an impact on health care as I, and others have thought, and that portends bad news for the industry.

New Technology, New Workers’ Compensation Issues: Can Medical Tourism Help?

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The Industrial Revolution brought with it many new wonders and many new problems, chief among them, numerous industrial accidents that occurred in factories, mills, mines, plants and other workplaces in the 20th century. The workers’ compensation industry was created to meet the challenges of workplace accidents and provide remedy to injured workers.

Now a new industrial revolution, a revolution in nanotechnology, will  usher in new problems and new issues for the workers’ compensation industry in the 21st century and beyond, according to an article in the online magazine of the website, MedicalSea.org.

The article, Health risks associated with manufacturing and using nanomaterials discusses what research the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is doing in the area of nanotechnology and its impact on the health and safety of workers in this new and growing industry.

NIOSH has identified ten critical topics to address knowledge gaps, develops strategies, and provides recommendations.

The topics are:

Toxicity and Internal Dose

Risk Assessment

Epidemiology & Surveillance

Engineering Controls and PPE

Measurement Methods

Exposure Assessment

Fire and Explosion Safety

Recommendations & Guidance

Communication & Information

Applications

They have also created a field research team to assess workplace processes, materials, and control technologies associated with nanotechnology, so that research laboratories, producers and manufacturers working with engineered nanomaterials will have the opportunity to participate in a cost-free, on-site assessment.

For the workers’ compensation industry, this research will be crucial to understanding how to handle future workplace accidents and better manage the risks involved with the manufacture and use of these new materials.

For the medical tourism industry, it offers a chance to get away from being strictly concerned with the looks of well-heeled tourists and getting involved with a facet of medical care that has yet to be created: the treatment of injuries from and exposure to potentially dangerous technology like nanotechnology. It can become a cutting edge area of health care that can propel many nations into the forefront of advanced medicine.

Does the boom in US Manufacturing mean more Medical Tourism Opportunities for Workers’ Compensation?

I received a blog post the other day from a blog I subscribe to called “Managed Care Matters”, published by Joseph Paduda. The post referenced a report in December’s Atlantic Magazine, entitled, “The Insourcing Boom”. In the report, and the posting by Paduda, a number of US companies are bringing jobs back to the US from China, Mexico, and Southeast Asia.

The reasons for this insourcing range from oil prices for transporting good by ship are higher now than they were twelve years ago, energy costs in the US due to the natural-gas boom have reduced energy costs for manufacturing, Chinese wages rising, adaption of American unions and American labor becoming more productive, reducing cost of manufacturing.

Paduda also mentions that since much of the manufacturing today is more automated than in the past, the working conditions, issues of safety, types of injuries, and risk management are not the same. What that means is there will be fewer accidents to fingers and limbs, but more injuries caused by repetitive action, which may present conditions for implementing medical tourism into workers’ compensation to surgically correct problems from repetitive motion injuries to the wrist, the back, etc.

Workers’ Compensation benefits for loss of fingers and limbs, especially the forearm and hands, are generally determined by what is called, Schedule Loss of Use awards, to claimants, and the surgical procedures are paid according to the individual state’s fee schedule for those procedures. For repetitive motion injuries, even those paid under a fee schedule, the cost of the procedure abroad may still be cheaper, and at the same and better quality of care available in US hospitals, so back injuries, carpal tunnel injuries and similar injuries would be cheaper in many medical tourism destinations.

The boom in manufacturing in the US may portend a boom in medical tourism opportunities in workers’ compensation as well.