The fiscal challenges in America are real, and they're not going away. And with the health care industry comprising a large portion of the GDP, it's important to understand the relationship between health care and the economy. Health economists in a Tuesday morning breakout session said they often view health care as the "third bubble" -- not unlike the dot-com and housing bubbles -- and wonder what happens if the bubble bursts. Panelists each discussed the impact of policy changes on jobs in the areas of nursing, academic medical centers, and the biotech industry.
"What policymakers need to know is that regardless of rationale, cuts in provider payments do have unfavorable economic effects," said Emil Parker of Avalere Health.The panelists suggested a paradigm shift similar to what was discussed during the morning's congressional panel. As state and federal budgets continue to be cut, it's important to think about being more efficient with the scarce resources that are available, rather than focusing on only seeking new or additional funding.
"We can't afford to keep old habits," said Kathleen Nolan of the National Association of Medicaid Directors.Panelists in both lunch plenary sessions discussed the uncertainties of 2012, and pointed to sectors where they were investing and anticipating strong returns. In Tuesday's session, moderator Edward M. Kennedy Jr. of the Marwood Group also discussed the opportunities in the market, noting that private equity investments in health care services continue to increase. Asked about assisted living and nursing facilities, panelists were more cautionary, saying that it wasn't a prime investment target now, but there was the potential for growth in the future. The day's discussions around managing costs and investments rounded back to the overall theme that's emerged at the conference: from implementation to economics, the myriad challenges of modern health policy create an opportunity for creativity and continue to require rigorous evidence to support solutions.