“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?” ― Martin Luther King, Jr.
Fall is officially upon us. At the MHA, that means a new program year is well underway, we have a new Strategic Action Plan in place and are preparing for the November election which is now just weeks away. This fall, we are also very proud to continue an annual tradition and publish two new reports documenting the critical role of our membership throughout the state: the 2022 Economic Impact of Healthcare in Michigan and the Healthy Futures, Health Communities community benefit report.
Fiscal year 2020 data (the most recently available) is shared in each report and it reinforces the position that hospitals are both economic drivers and community leaders. Healthcare remains the largest private sector employer in Michigan with nearly 572,000 total individuals directly employed, 224,000 of which are in hospitals. These direct healthcare workers earned $44.2 billion in wages, salaries and benefits and when combined with indirect, healthcare-supported jobs, contributed almost $15.2 billion in local, state and federal taxes. Hospitals provide mission-oriented work aimed at the health and wellness of their patients and communities, but the data is clear that hospitals clearly have a role in the economic health of our state as well.
We take our work towards improving community wellness seriously, which is demonstrated by the nearly $4.2 billion investment in community-based partnerships and programming. Hospitals invested more than $869 million in community and voluntary-based activities while providing $3.4 billion in uncompensated care. Hospitals are committed to not only caring for anyone who walks through their doors, but towards preventative care programs that can help reduce the need of inpatient hospital services. The costs of these efforts come directly out of a hospital’s bottom line but are vital towards ensuring vulnerable patients have the ability to receive needed care.
These reports are based on data from the first year of the pandemic. I do not have to tell you how trying and difficult those times were for hospitals. Despite the uncertainty and demand on hospitals and health systems during that time, they continued to support our communities in these important ways. Our healthcare system was stretched to new lengths, but we had over half a million individuals directly involved in providing care to patients. With a statewide population of 10 million, 40% of which are either under the age of 18 or aged 65 and older, healthcare either directly or indirectly employs over 18% of our workforce.
Yet the 2020 numbers also begin to provide evidence of the loss of healthcare workers that we anecdotally have shared for the last several years. For the first time in the history of the economic impact report, total direct jobs in Michigan from healthcare declined, including the loss of 7,000 jobs in hospitals. Despite those losses, total compensation for hospital workers remained the same, as contracted labor (e.g. those working for nurse staffing agencies) became a necessity for hospitals to maintain appropriate staffing levels.
But I do not want to lose sight of what the headline should be, and that is healthcare remains an economic engine and the largest private-sector employer in Michigan. At a time where every industry is struggling with having enough staff, healthcare remains a very significant employer. And the industry holds a tremendous amount of opportunity for new job growth moving forward: Michigan’s recent list of the top career fields with the highest projected growth is dominated by healthcare professions. Hospitals not only offer well-compensated careers with strong benefits, but in a rewarding field that truly makes a difference in the lives of our neighbors. Hospital careers also exist in communities large and small, helping to keep college graduates and young professionals in our state. Lastly, the skills of a healthcare professional are transferrable, regardless of region, and long-lasting. The training and education for a healthcare professional today will remain relevant over the next several decades.
Every year that goes by, hospitals seek to be more involved with individuals outside the walls of their facilities. They are helping to address the social determinants of health, including access to transportation and food insecurity. And they are intertwined in not only the individual health of community members, but in the success of local business and municipalities. Access to healthcare is at the top of any organization’s checklist wishing to expand their footprint into new markets. Our success depends on the success of community leaders and vice versa.
When we advocate for much-needed Medicaid and Medicare funding, for the 340B drug pricing program and for good health policy at the state and federal level, we do so because we know these are essential to maintaining access to quality healthcare in communities throughout Michigan. With the facts presented by our new reports on economic impact and community benefit, we believe there is more reason than ever for our elected officials – and all of us – to support our Michigan hospitals.
As always, I welcome your thoughts.