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Health care fuels Iowa’s economy

By Staff | Apr 1, 2011

Health care is an expensive proposition in 21st-century America. Just a few decades ago, the state of medical knowledge and technology were such that providing what was then state-of-the-art health care consumed a relatively small portion of the nation’s resources.

Those days are long gone.

Everyone benefits from an explosion in medical knowledge. The medical world’s ability to diagnose and treat serious illnesses has grown dramatically in recent decades. Most of us know of friends and relatives who would not be among the living – or whose quality of life would be much reduced – were it not for the miracles modern medicine produces.

The downside is that the cost of turning these advances into cures and treatments for the assorted ills that afflict us is enormous. In the United States today, just about one out of every six dollars of the wealth our economy generates winds up being spent on health care.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, therefore, to learn that Iowa hospitals play a big role not only in keeping us healthy, but also are an increasingly important factor in the state’s economy.

The Iowa Hospital Association, the trade association that includes as members all of the state’s 118 community hospitals, has just released a study that documents the huge economic impact of this industry.

The numbers are truly impressive. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Iowa’s community hospitals employ about 70,000 people and create approximately 68,000 jobs outside the hospital sector.
  • These hospitals annually contribute $6.1 billion to the state’s economy.
  • Retail sales generated by hospitals and their employees exceed $1.8 billion. Annual sales taxes paid in connection with these expenditures are about $109 million.
  • The salaries and benefits of the hospital employees are nearly $3.8 billion each year. The salaries and benefits of people whose jobs depend on the hospital sector amount to an additional $2.3 billion.

The health care sector in Iowa, of course, includes more than just hospitals. The IHA estimates that when all the components are included, they account for 20 percent of the Hawkeye State’s employment – either directly or indirectly.

Hospitals and other health care institutions, as well as the assorted professionals who provide care, play vital roles in keeping our bodies strong and healthy.

That is their most critical function.

It is important to recognize, however, that any analysis of modern economic life would be woefully incomplete if it did not include a comprehensive understanding of the part the health care industry plays in generating prosperity.

The IHA deserves praise for producing a study that significantly enhances our understanding of a complicated but vital subject.

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