One of the main criticisms of Medicare for All is that its radical realignment of the health care sector would lead to millions of job losses as doctors and hospitals take a financial hit and the legions of administrators, coders and claims specialists that have arisen under the current system see their middle-class jobs streamlined out of existence.
Some health economists have argued that a reduction in the health-care workforce is a feature, not a flaw, in the Medicare-for-All plan — albeit one that policymakers must plan for to help minimize economic pain and dislocation. But a report released this week by the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, argues that the threat of job losses has been overblown and that the labor market churn created by a switch to Medicare for All would not be very large compared, for example, to the 21.5 million workers who got laid off in 2018.
“The number of health insurance and billing administration workers who would need to transition implies an increase in the rate of overall job market churn that is relatively small: Job losses for these workers would be equivalent to one-twelfth the size of economywide layoffs in 2018,” EPI economist Josh Bivens writes.
The 1.8 million health insurance and billing administration jobs expected to be lost based on one analysis is roughly the same as the number of layoffs in the finance and insurance sectors over the past four years, Bivens writes. Those job losses haven’t resulted in a shock to the economy. They’re just part of the normal labor market churn.
Bivens adds that the number of jobs in the health care sector overall is “almost guaranteed” to grow after a transition to Medicare for All as millions of Americans make use of their new coverage: “The number of jobs spurred by increased demand for new health care spending (including long-term care) will certainly be larger than the number displaced by realizing efficiencies in the health insurance and billing administration sectors.”
Beyond that, Medicare for All should actually boost wages and allow workers to switch jobs or start new businesses more easily, resulting in a better labor market.