News | Coronavirus

Healthcare News of Note: Hospital employment continues to decline despite an increase in jobs for the healthcare sector

News | Coronavirus

Healthcare News of Note: Hospital employment continues to decline despite an increase in jobs for the healthcare sector

  • Hospital employment has dipped for three consecutive months, according to the Altarum data, and is down 37,000 jobs since the end of last year.
  • President Joe Biden will call on lawmakers to make permanent the largest expansion of the Affordable Care Act seen since the law was passed ten years ago. But he won't endorse action on drug prices in the next economic relief package.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic was linked with a global decline in the volume of stroke hospitalizations, intravenous thrombolysis (IVT), and interfacility IVT transfers.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve found these industry news stories that should be of interest to healthcare finance professionals.

1. Healthcare employment rebounds from COVID-19 related job loss

An April 19 Healthcare Dive article reported, “Healthcare employment is rebounding from the job losses created by COVID-19, but the overall numbers still trail pre-pandemic levels, according to new data released by the Altarum Institute. Overall sector employment at the end of the first quarter of 2021 was down by 44,000 compared to the end of last year.

“Hospital employment has sunk for three consecutive months, according to the Altarum data, and is down 37,000 jobs since the end of last year.”

According to Altarum data:

  • Compared to the February 2020 pre-pandemic peak, health employment is down 3.1%, or 557,000 jobs.
  • Ambulatory care settings added 15,300 jobs in March and a net 31,000 jobs in Q1 2021.
  • Nursing and residential care employment fell by 3,200 jobs in March. Nursing homes added jobs for the first time in more than a year, tallying 1,700, while other nursing and residential care organizations lost 4,900 jobs.
  • Overall, nursing and residential care employment was down 38,000 jobs in Q1 2021 and has fallen by 8.6%, or 313,000 jobs since February 2020.
  • The economy overall added 904,500 jobs in February, and the unemployment rate dropped to 6.0%. Total employment remains 5.5%, or about 8.4 million jobs, below the February 2020 pre-pandemic peak.

2. President Joe Biden unveils plans for the ACA, but leaves drug-pricing policies out of proposed legislation

 An April 28 article by STAT reported, “President Biden told Congress Wednesday to let Medicare negotiate drug prices this year. But it’s an empty call to action.

“‘Let’s give Medicare the power to save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating lower prices for prescription drugs. That won’t just help people on Medicare — it will lower prescription drug costs for everyone,’ Biden said in his address. ‘Let’s get it done this year.’

“But the president snubbed drug pricing policy in his sweeping proposal to reform the social safety net — a move that leaves it out of one of the few policy packages that has a meaningful chance of clearing Congress this year. Already, the president is hoping Congress will pass two gigantic pieces of legislation before it turns to its annual, must-pass appropriations legislation.”

An April 28 Modern Healthcare article also reported on Biden’s first joint address to Congress, saying, “President Joe Biden will call on lawmakers to make permanent the largest expansion of the Affordable Care Act seen since the law was passed ten years ago. But he won't endorse including action on drug prices in the next economic relief package to be considered by Congress.”

“The American Families Plan — to be unveiled by the president Wednesday night — largely focuses on childcare, education and tax issues, but is not the healthcare-focused package that was expected up until one week ago,” wrote article author Jessie Hellmann.

“But Biden will ask Congress to make permanent changes to the ACA, including making middle-income Americans eligible for ACA subsidies and making that premium assistance more generous for people who earn low incomes.”

3. Stroke admissions declined worldwide early in the pandemic

An April 17 MedPage Today article reported, “The COVID-19 pandemic was linked with a global decline in the volume of stroke hospitalizations, intravenous thrombolysis (IVT), and interfacility IVT transfers, a researcher reported.

“From March to June 2020, stroke admissions declined by 11.5% at 457 worldwide centers versus 4 months immediately before the pandemic, according to Thanh Nguyen, MD, of Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center.

“There were 91,373 stroke admissions in the 4 months immediately before the pandemic was declared versus 80,894 admissions during the pandemic months (P<0.0001), she said in a presentation at the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) virtual meeting.”

The cross-sectional, observational, retrospective study was done across six continents and 70 countries with 450 co-authors, according to article author Ed Susman.

In the article, Nguyen provided several reasons for the drop in stroke admissions. These included:

  •  Fear of contracting COVID-19 or nosocomial infection during the hospitalization
  • A reduction in exposure to other infections due to wearing masks, which can also potentially reduce the risk of having stroke
  •  A decrease in perioperative strokes due to the shutdown of elective surgeries

HFMA bonus content

Senior editor Nick Hut’s April 21 article, Prospective CMS administrator’s confirmation hearing highlights Congress’s desire to expand telehealth coverage.

The article — HFMA’s virtual Cost Effectiveness of Health Summit May 6-7 will address the industry’s trajectory of continuous spending growth and discuss strategies healthcare organizations can use to move toward a more sustainable model — provides agenda details and how to register to participate in this event.

About the Author

Deborah Filipek

is a senior editor at HFMA in Westchester, Ill.

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