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A Look at the Business of Healthcare in Oregon

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Across the United States, the healthcare industry is a beacon of promise for aspiring careerists. For those who value strong growth prospects and recession resistance, few industries perform better. If you live in Oregon, the prospects are arguably even stronger than the national averages, given the state’s aggressive approach to healthcare and its re-envisioning of delivery and access.

What the Employment Statistics Say

Around 206,050 people work in the healthcare industry in Oregon, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), compared to 16,866,020 people employed by the industry nationally, placing Oregon’s contribution at 1.22%. As a percentage of total employment in the state, the healthcare sector accounts for 11%. The average for the United States is 12%. KFF data is from 2017.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with data from 2018, shows employment of 102,780 among healthcare practitioners and technical occupations. Another 52,740 work in healthcare support occupations. The discrepancy between the KFF 206,050 figure and this total would appear to be that the BLS identifies many healthcare professionals as administrative, management, or community and social service.

There are 62 community hospitals in the state, located across 36 counties. According to the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS), these include public and private hospitals, multi-hospital systems, stand-alone specialty hospitals and affiliated health services providers. They represent a mix of general (also called “acute care”) as well as pediatric, long-term care and behavioral health services. More than half of Oregon’s hospitals are rural.

The OAHHS reports that Oregon’s community hospitals directly provide more than 62,000 full- and part-time jobs and about 55,254 jobs in other areas. In all, Oregon hospitals are associated with over 117,000 full- and part-time jobs. Remarkably, 4.9% of Oregon jobs are supported by hospitals, and 2.6% of the state’s total employment is in the hospital sector.

Economic Impact of Healthcare in Oregon

These jobs are very important to the state’s economy. Hospitals directly generated approximately $258 million in tax and fee revenue for the state in 2015 (latest OAHHS data). State and local governments collected another $295 million in taxes from businesses that supply goods and services to hospitals. 

Oregon’s hospitals provide valuable programs to state residents, including free and discounted care, community health services, health education and wellness programs. In 2015 Oregon hospitals provided more than $1.9 billion in community benefit contributions.

The Oregon Health Plan

Nationally, the country struggles to institute affordable and accessible-to-all health care, but Oregon has a history of success dating back decades. The state legislature in 1989-1993 enacted a series of laws known collectively as the Oregon Health Plan (OHP). Senate Bill 27 (1989) extended Medicaid coverage to Oregonians with below poverty-level income and established benefits based on a Prioritized List of Health Services.​ The OHP provides healthcare coverage for low-income Oregonians from all walks of life, including working families, children, pregnant women, single adults and seniors. This level of access to healthcare has been a significant factor in the state’s demand for qualified healthcare professionals.

In 2012 the Oregon Health Authority launched coordinated care organizations to deliver better care to the state’s most vulnerable residents. This model was launched under Affordable Care Act provisions and funded by a $1.9 billion federal waiver, which provided the spending flexibility to conduct what is essentially an experiment in improving patient care, boosting community health and controlling cost growth with a local, community-based approach.

Demand for Healthcare Professionals

The Portland Business Journal recently reported that healthcare workers are more in demand than ever in Oregon. Projections show health systems adding more jobs to Oregon’s economy over the next 10 years than any other employers. Recruiters cite a high demand for allied health professionals, supervisors and managers to lead these teams. There is also a great need for professionals qualified to use electronic health record systems and having training in clinical informatics, the application of information technology in healthcare.

Oregon residents with designs on a healthcare career stand at the threshold of unprecedented opportunity. Employers are counting on a continued influx of highly educated talent to make even better healthcare a reality.

Learn more about SOU’s online MBA program with a Concentration in Healthcare Administration.

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