Your Opinion: Don't slow momentum of health care jobs

Dear Editor:

Two stories in the Sept. 27 edition of the Jefferson City News Tribune underscore what hospital leaders have been saying for months — health care is creating jobs and sustaining the economy in Mid-Missouri and statewide.

The announcement from Lincoln University that it will begin to offer a degree program in health informatics was great news — especially in light of the recognition of Jefferson City’s GO Partners Health Care Solutions’ recognition as an Inc. magazine Top 500 Fastest Growing Company.

Too often, the public perception is that health care jobs are exclusively in caregiver roles. As both announcements point out, health care fields are diverse, and jobs outside of the direct care environment are available and expanding.

Earlier this year, the Missouri Hospital Association published a report on the impact of hospitals on Missouri’s economy. The direct and indirect role of hospitals in sustaining the economy throughout the economic downturn is impressive.

In the 19 counties included in the Central Missouri workforce investment area, which includes Cole County, there are 19 hospitals. In the most recent year for which data are available, these hospitals had $2.1 billion in revenue and $737 million in total payroll and benefits, and they employed 17,843 local residents.

What’s more, demand for health care services by baby boomers and the newly insured resulting from the Affordable Care Act will require new health care infrastructure and additional education and training for more health care workers.

There’s never been a better time for educators, health care providers, technology developers and community leaders to collaborate to strengthen employment opportunities in the region’s health care system. Putting America back to work is essential to the local, state and national economic recovery.

In Washington, D.C., a “super committee” has been challenged to find savings to reduce the deficit and debt. Hospitals understand and support efforts to get the nation’s fiscal house in order. However, these decisions could have a disproportionate impact on Missouri and result in job losses and reduced access to health services in Mid-Missouri and statewide. In addition, significant cuts to Medicare and Medicaid could hamper opportunities for growth in health information technology, which has the promise of making health care more efficient and increasing the quality of care provided throughout the entire health delivery system.

As our leaders make decisions about the economy and position the state and nation for growth and recovery, they should be looking at health care.

Lincoln University and GO Partners Health Care Solutions understand this. We need to share that message with our elected officials.

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