Posts Tagged ‘Census Bureau’

Healthcare Jobs Still the Fastest-Growing Sector

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Job growth in the healthcare profession seems to be virtually recession-proof. In Florida, a state with a sizeable percentage of senior citizens, there are about 960,000 healthcare and social assistance jobs, approximately 13 percent of all nonfarm payroll positions in the state.

Some experts are not as optimistic about job growth in the healthcare sector.  “Reform may accelerate the trend toward healthcare’s being the dominant employment sector in the economy,” according to a recent New England Journal of Medicine (now known as NEJM) article.  A significant amount of the growth in healthcare that result from reform might be in support positions, rather than physicians and nurses, several economists said.  “As for jobs for health professionals, I doubt that this will or can increase the number of doctors or nurses.  While there will be greater demand for their services, there will also be offsetting effects as medically unnecessarily procedures are paid less,” said Amitabh Chandra, an economist and public-policy professor at Harvard University.

As the insured population grows under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), healthcare workers will be in high demand.  These gains come on the heels of growth already required to serve an aging population.  In Florida, the aging population’s impact on healthcare employment is more dramatic than in the rest of the country: about 17 percent of the state’s population is older than 65, compared with a 13 percent average in the other states., according to the Census Bureau.

Other experts are far more sanguine about healthcare’s ability to create jobs.  “The big places we waste money is patients who are discharged and there’s not a lot of follow up and they end up in the hospital a month later,” said Leemore Dafny, an economist at Northwestern University whose expertise is competition in healthcare markets.  According to Dafny, reform will create new primary-care physicians and physician “extenders,” such as nurse practitioners; at the same time, it could decelerate growth in spending on medical specialists.  “If the ACA is repealed, it will be business as usual — except that more of the population is now uninsured — so the demand for primary-care professionals will increase much more slowly,” said Dafny.

In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the healthcare sector for some time has provided about the only bright spot in an otherwise drab report on job growth.  Healthcare employment created 205,100 new jobs in the first eight months of 2011.  Approximately 14.1 million people are employed in the healthcare sector with more than 4.7 million jobs at hospitals; more than 6.1 million jobs in ambulatory services; and more than 2.3 million jobs in physicians’ offices, according to BLS statistics.

According to Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Mark Pinsky, president and CEO of the Opportunity Finance Network, “The current economic recovery effort presents an opportunity to build stronger, healthier communities.  That’s a central goal, for example, of the Create Jobs for USA Fund that the OFN and Starbucks launched late last year to support job creation and retention.  Economic growth and job creation provide more than income and the ability to afford health insurance and medical care.  They also enable us to live in safer homes and neighborhoods, buy healthier food, have more leisure time for physical activity, and experience less health-harming stress.  The research clearly shows that health starts in our homes and communities and not in the doctor’s office.  In that way, economic policy is, in fact, health policy.  The end goal?  Create and sustain job growth across the country.  Improve communities.  Improve health.  Give people the opportunities to make smart, healthy decisions so that they can act in the best interests of their communities, themselves, and future generations.”

Healthcare added 17,200 jobs in November of 2011, an increase over the 11,600 jobs reported in October, according to BLS data.  Healthcare accounted for 14.3 percent of 120,000 new jobs created across all sectors in November.  On the whole, healthcare represented 24 percent of the 1.2 million non-farm jobs created this year and is expected to create 321,000 new jobs by year’s end.  That represents a 22 percent increase over the 263,400 healthcare jobs created in 2011.

90-Year-Olds Growing in Numbers

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Is 90 the new 85? The number of Americans over the age of 90 has skyrocketed from 720,000 in the year 1980 to more than 1.9 million in 2010, according to the Census Bureau, which notes that “over the next four decades, this population is projected to more than quadruple.”  Driven by improvements in healthcare, the trend presents challenges.  The Census Bureau notes that “a nation’s oldest-old population consumes resources disproportionately to its overall population size, and its growth has a significant impact on societal and family resources, including pension and retirement income, healthcare costs, and intergenerational relationships.”

According to the study, “People at very old ages are also expected to live longer.  Today a person 90 years of age is expected to live on average another 4.6 years (versus 3.2 years in 1929–1931), and those who pass the century mark are projected to live another 2.3 years.  Women aged 90+ outnumber 90+ men nearly 3 to 1.”

The downside is that people aged 90-plus are more likely to live in poverty or have disabilities, creating a new challenge to already strained retiree income and healthcare programs.

Richard Suzman, director of behavioral and social research at the National Institute on Aging, said “A key issue for this population will be whether disability rates can be reduced.  We’ve seen to some extent that disabilities can be reduced with lifestyle improvements, diet and exercise.  But it becomes more important to find ways to delay, prevent or treat conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.”

“Given its rapid growth, the 90-and-older population merits a closer look,” said Wan He, a Census Bureau demographer and one of the report’s authors.  “The older people get, the more resources they consume because of healthcare, and disability rates significantly increase.  This creates demands for daily care, and for families the care burden increases dramatically.”

People in this demographic are more likely to have at least one disability, live alone or live in a nursing home.  They’re also more likely to be female, because women typically are longer-lived than men, and are likely to be poor.  “But increasingly people are living longer and the older population itself is getting older.  Given its rapid growth, the 90-and-older population merits a closer look.  The implications for the family and our society of this growing population are likely to be significant,” according to the authors.

The poverty issue cannot be understated because it becomes more likely as a person ages.  From 2006 to 2008, 14.5 percent of people 90 and older lived in poverty, drastically more than the 9.6 percent of those 65 to 89 who were considered poor.  The annual median income for people aged 90 and older was $14,760, as measured in inflation adjusted dollars.  Nearly half of that income — 47.9 percent — came from Social Security, and 18.3 percent came from retirement pensions.  Fully 92.3 percent of those 90 and older received Social Security income.

And where do these nonagenarians live? According to Census figures, smaller states had the highest shares of their older Americans who were at least 90.  North Dakota had approximately seven percent of its 65-plus population older than 90.  It was followed by Connecticut, Iowa and South Dakota.  When considering absolute numbers, the retirement havens of California, Florida and Texas led the nation in the 90-plus population, each with more than 130,000.

By 2050 – just 39 years from now – the number of Americans 90 or older could total nine million. “I think it’s going to grow even faster than predicted in the report,” Suzman said.  Someone who lives to 90 today is likely to live almost another five years, the study noted.  Additionally, a person who lives to celebrate a 100th birthday is likely to live another 2.3 years.  Women aged 90 and older outnumbered men by 3 to 1, according to the study.  Nearly 80 percent of those women are widows, while more than 40 percent of the men are married.

Edmund H. Duthie, a professor of medicine and chief of the division of geriatrics and gerontology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said the census numbers point to a sobering fact: Retirement may be longer than people expect.  “Are you going to outlive whatever you put aside?”  Duthie said.  “Most people wouldn’t think that if you retired at 60, you may have a third of your life to live.”  Duthie said it was unclear how the nation’s obesity epidemic might affect longevity as well as chronic illness.  America, he said, remains concerned with rates of dementia and how society will cope with the problem.  “The science base of what we do with the oldest old is something that we’re lacking,” he said.  “We can measure cholesterol and blood pressure, but what does it mean in a 90-year-old?  We need to be enrolling these oldest old in studies to understand more about what to do.”

Why Are More Middle-Aged Women Killing Themselves?

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

A recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found a 49 percent increase in emergency department visits for drug-related suicide attempts for women 50 years and older.  Women in the 40-69 age bracket are at greater risk of killing themselves than other women, according to research on age-specific suicide rates between 1998 and 2007.  In 2007, this age group comprised 60 percent of the 7,328 suicides reported among women.  The question is:  Why is this happening to middle-aged women?

There is a possibility that it is a question of numbers: One in four American adults has a treatable mental health condition; women in the 40-69-year-old age group represent one of the nation’s fastest-growing populations.  Alternatively, it could be a function of baby boomers’ elevated rates of substance abuse, a critical risk factor in suicide, said Julie Phillips, Ph.D., a social demographer and associate professor at Rutgers University.  According to Phillips, the age-specific rates were derived from data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the Census Bureau.

During the nine-year time period studied, suicide rates remained fairly stable for women younger than 40; for women older than 70, suicide rates declined.  Women 50 and older may be in crisis because pain and sleep disorders — widespread problems related to aging — often lead to increased use of prescription drugs, said Albert Woodward, Ph.D., the project director of SAMHSA’s Drug Abuse Warning Network.  According to the SAMHSA report, suicide attempts involving drugs to treat anxiety and insomnia rose 56 percent.  Woodward said that middle-aged women may experience depression because of declining health and other negative life events.   Loneliness and depression also are risk factors for suicide.  “Older women, especially in the U.S., are more isolated and separated from daily human contact outside of work and the internet,” said Ellyn Kaschak, Ph.D., emeritus professor of psychology at San Jose State University and the editor of the journal Women & Therapy.

Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, a psychologist and licensed clinical social worker in Sarasota, FL, has found  a surprising increase in suicide attempts by women aged between 45 and 54.  Women are susceptible to depression but older women may also be suffering from pre-menopause hormone fluctuations that can affect mood changes and depression.  According to Dr. Wish, women in their middle years are more aware of their mortality and may be disenchanted that they will never be happy.  Becoming an empty nester also is stressful.

Of greater concern is the 67 percent increase of women taking hydrocodone, and an astonishing 210 percent increase for women taking oxycodone.  According to SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., “The steep rise in the abuse of narcotic pain relievers by women is extremely dangerous and we are now seeing the results of this public health crisis in our emergency rooms.  Emergency rooms should not be the frontline in our efforts to intervene.  Friends, family, and all members of the community must do everything possible to help identify women who may be in crisis and do everything possible to reach out and get them needed help.”

Because they are often members of the so-called “Sandwich Generation,” middle-aged women frequently discount their own needs as they organize commitments to jobs, marriages, kids, and aging parents.  Many say they don’t get enough sleep and eat too much junk-food.  According to medical experts, these habits — combined with soaring cortisol (a steroid hormone, or glucocorticoid, produced by the adrenal gland) levels — from stress — could mean this will be the first generation of women who don’t live five to seven years longer than males.

HHS Acts to End Healthcare Disparities Among Minorities

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued guidelines to reduce disparities in healthcare for racial and ethnic minorities.  “We need to make sure we eliminate disparities in America,” said Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD).  For too many years, racial and ethnic minorities “have had less access, less treatment and less research.”

The HHS Action Plan to Reduce Health Disparities relies heavily on provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The plan’s five major goals are: to transform healthcare; strengthen the national health and human services workforce; advance the public’s health and well-being; implement a new health data collection and analysis strategy; and increase efficiency, transparency and accountability so that assessments of policies and programs on health disparities will become a part of all HHS decision-making.

Minorities still trail other Americans in many health outcome measures.  They are less likely to get preventive care, more likely to suffer from serious illnesses — such as diabetes or heart disease — and when they do get sick, they are less likely to have access to quality healthcare.  The Affordable Care Act can potentially address the needs of racial and ethnic minorities, by cutting healthcare costs, investing in prevention and wellness, supporting primary-care improvements, and creating links between the traditional realms of health and social services.  “For the first time, the United States has a coordinated road map designed to give everyone the chance to live a healthy life,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “We all need to work together to combat this persistent problem so that we can build healthier communities and a stronger nation.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two of five Latinos and one of five African-Americans lack insurance. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has found that about 30 percent of Hispanics and 20 percent of African-Americans have no regular source of healthcare, compared with 16 percent of whites.  In treatments for serious illnesses, minorities constantly lag behind whites.  Blacks are one-third less likely to have bypass surgery than whites and significantly less likely to receive children’s medications for asthma.  Additionally, they are more likely to be uninsured.  The minority population currently represents the fastest growing segment of the American population, according to Census Bureau data.

“Health disparities have burdened our country for too long,” said Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH.  “This plan reaffirms and revitalizes a national commitment to helping all persons reach their full health potential.”  Communities can use the National Stakeholder Strategy to identify the goals that are most imperative and adopt effective strategies and action steps to reach them.

The plans ask that federal agencies and their partners to cooperate on the social, economic and environmental factors that contribute to health disparities.  “Where people live, learn, work and play affects their health as much as their access to healthcare,” said Garth Graham, MD, MPH, deputy assistant secretary for minority health and director of the HHS Office of Minority Health.  “We have to confront the social, economic and environmental factors that contribute to health disparities if we are to fulfill the President’s goal of ‘winning the future.”

Lack of Healthcare Insurance = More Deaths

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Failure to pass healthcare reform legislation could result in 275,000 premature deaths over the next decade.  The real cost of failure to pass healthcare reform legislation could mean that 275,000 Americans nationwide will die unnecessarily over the next 10 years – simply because they lack insurance.  According to a new study by Families USA, “This is only the tip of the iceberg, and the most severe consequence, which is death,” said Kathleen Stoll, director of health policy at Families USA.

The states with the largest populations were found to be the ones where the majority of projected premature deaths would occur.  The top states are California (34,600 early deaths); Texas (31,700); Florida (25,400); and New York (13,900).  Families USA estimates that 68 adults under the age of 65 die every day because they lack healthcare insurance coverage.  Unless a significant change occurs, that figure will climb to 84 by 2019.

Research exploring the connection between a lack of health insurance and an increased risk of death has found that the uninsured are more likely to avoid screenings and preventive care.  As a result, their medical problems tend to be diagnosed later when they are advanced and difficult to treat.  “The bottom line is that if you don’t get a disease picked up early and you don’t get necessary treatment, you’re more likely to die,” said Stan Dorn, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and author of an earlier study of premature deaths.

Healthcare experts warn that the Families USA’s study’s premature death estimate errs on the side of caution, although the report calculated that a lack of insurance increases mortality rates by 25 percent.  More recent research found that people who do not have healthcare research are 40 percent more likely to die early.