Christian John Lillis

Health-Care Investment a Key to Creating Jobs, Saving Lives

Disease prevention and the military rank side by side as national priorities, at least on paper. Federal obligations for public health, as part of promoting "the general welfare," and providing for "the common defense" originate in the same two sentences of the Constitution.

But while the military grabs more than $600 billion in federal spending, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) get only about 1 percent of that. It’s time we narrowed the disparity. Doing so will create jobs, reduce avoidable costs to taxpayers, and save lives.

The Supreme Court's ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act is an unmistakable signal that health care will remain a top federal priority for years to come. Politicians on the right, like Mitt Romney, often denounce the 17 percent of the federal budget that goes to health care. But leaders of all parties tend to overlook the jobs it generates. And outside the Obama administration itself, many are dropping the ball on realizing the new jobs that come with  improvements in care and the efforts to reduce expense and misery through disease prevention that are interwoven in healthcare reform.

Investment in health care, including in public health, is a major catalyst for employment. Several independent analyses estimate the nation's three-year increase in healthcare positions from 250,000 to more than a million. A report this May by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute looks just at California, a state hard-hit by the recession and the nation's single largest economy, estimates that 99,000 jobs will be created statewide by the federal health reform law. And that is in just the first year of the law's implementation.

Will our priorities in public investment match the healthcare marketplace and the needs of the American people? Last month brought news from the Association of American Medical Colleges that the country is 63,000 doctors shy of meeting the nation's demands.

Such reports and the recent high court ruling should embolden elected officials and candidates at all levels to champion investment in
health care. This includes education pipelines into health-care professions and research, reporting, and prevention efforts targeting diseases acquired in the course of receiving health care.

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