Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Health care jobs, the good and the not-so-good

Health care is one of the largest employment sectors in the Mahoning Valley, second only to manufacturing. This week on Lincoln Avenue, I’m talking with someone who understands the role of health care in the local economy, especially the job market – Molly Seals, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Learning for Humility of Mary Health Partners.

As Seals points out, health care jobs are satisfying, relatively stable, and more diverse than you might think. Caring for others brings emotional rewards as well as financial ones. While employment in other industries has declined, and some kinds of jobs are hard to get, employment in health care has grown significantly over the last decade, both locally and nationally. As Seals discusses in our interview, the health sector employs not just doctors and nurses but a wide range of technicians, customer service workers, and maintenance people. Many health care jobs require college education, but some do not, and many require 2-year degrees.

On the other hand, as Seals acknowledges, health care jobs are not easy. They can be stressful and physically demanding. And while demand for health care workers is growing, problems do exist. As Ohio Policy Matters reported in July, while employment is growing and fairly secure, wages have declined and working conditions create challenges. Some fields have seen growth in both wages and jobs, but some of the fastest growing job categories, such as home health aides, have seen the sharpest wage declines.

For the Mahoning Valley, the growth in health care employment means more stable jobs of many different kinds, many of which pay well and all of which contribute to the local economy. At the same time, we should advocate for safe working conditions and good wages for those who take care of us when we’re ill.

Seals also spoke briefly about a topic I hope to pursue in more depth in a later interview: a community-wide plan to provide access to health care for the thousands of Mahoning Valley residents who don’t have insurance. The Mahoning Valley Access to Care Network met earlier this fall, bringing together local government leaders, non-profit organizations, and health care providers to discuss strategies for addressing the health care crisis.

1 comment:

Jack Labusch said...

The linked good newspaper article on Mahoning Valley Access to Care paints a slightly incomplete picture of the contributions medically uninsured folks make to assure the health care of others.
Medically uninsured workers, for example, pay taxes to support beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare, a risk pool from which uninsured workers don't benefit at all.
Likewise, medically uninsured taxpayers contribute to the always politically vulnerable SCHIPS and Medicaid, means-tested risk pools which are unlikely to include any but the very poorest and very youngest workers.
What's more, medically uninsured workers pay a larger portion of their gross income in taxes than do workers of the same income who have part of their total compensation diverted by their employer to the consumption of group health insurance.
Not only that, medically uninsured bargaining unit workers, such as part-timers, support through their union dues labor contracts that enroll non-worker contractually qualifying dependents in group health insurance risk pools from which they, the uninsured workers, are excluded by a sort of unexamined bargaining custom.