Health care is area’s largest private employer

Health care is now the largest private employer in the Richmond area, according to the Times-Dispatch’s Top 50 Employer story. VCU Health Systems ranked as the No. 1 private employer for the first time. Bon Secours and Richmond Health Systems were both in the top 10.“Today health care firms in the top 10 account for 19,315 workers,” writes Emily Dooley.

That might sound like great news to economists who monitor employment figures, and to hospital administrations who get bonuses when profits are high, but it’s a painful spoonful of medicine for the small business owners who’ve seen their health insurance premiums rise 20% in the last year or two. The T-D article says that the jobs were created as baby boomers age, and to be sure Virginia attracts its fair share of retirees. However, someone has to pay for all those doctors visits, and that falls on the shoulder of the area’s businesses.

Unlike the financial sector, which used to be No. 1 in private employment and drew income from all over the nation and the world, the medical industry is a zero sum game. Any gains in the industries income come directly out of the pocket the area’s infirm. But since businesses pay for their employee’s healthcare costs, it actually comes out of the pockets of area businesses.

In fact, the local businesses to some degree pay for the uninsured, too, since the hospitals are likely not eating much of the costs as evidenced by their record profits (translation: they’re able to pass along the cost of indigent care to those who pay) Bon Secours made $52 million in 2006. That’s AFTER paying the doctors and the costs of running a hospital. VCU Health System profited to the tune of $45 million. HCA’s CJW Medical Center pocketed $66 million in profits. (Figures from Virginia Health Information Industry Report)

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