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America's Health Care Economy
Aug 01, 2003
Ross DeVol and Rob Koepp

This study examines the potential impact of the growing health-care sector on regional economies. According to the authors, cities and regions with the greatest health-care resources could be big economic winners in the decades ahead. Why? People are living longer, the elderly population is growing, and demands for better health care are pushing new innovations in medicine. That makes for vibrant local economies, according to this report.

America's Health Care Economy ranks Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles at the top of the list. Each has a major stake in health care, from hospitals to pharmaceuticals to biotechnology, which pump millions of dollars into their local economies and provide tens of thousands of jobs.

How important is the health-care industry to the economy? Health-care consumption in the U.S. has doubled since 1970, from 7 percent of GDP to 14 percent. It is expected to reach 17 percent by 2011 as this country's senior population grows. Globally, the over-65 population is expected to expand from 600 million to more than one billion by 2020.

The study examines more than 300 metropolitan areas as well as all 50 states to quantify the importance of this sector to regional, state and U.S. economies. Applying mathematical models used in the Institute's 1999 groundbreaking study, America's High-Tech Economy, Milken Institute researchers examined employment in 13 health-care industries, from hospitals, drugs and medical supplies to health insurance and medical research.

The heart of the study is the Milken Institute's list of the Top 20 Metro Health Poles, which ranks metropolitan regions based on the concentration of health-care employment in their economy and as a share of U.S. health-care employment.

Boston, a center of biotechnology and home to some of this country's top medical schools, is ranked number one on the index. Right behind it in a virtual tie is New York, which employs tens of thousands of workers in its hospitals and other health-related industries. Philadelphia, a leading employer in pharmaceuticals, is third, Chicago, a leading center for health insurance firms, is fourth, Los Angeles, with its numerous physician offices, clinics and laboratories, is fifth, and Washington, D.C., home to the country's top research organizations, such as the National Institutes of Health, is sixth.

The report also looks at which states and regions have the largest concentrations of health-care employment.

View Health Pole ranking of all 317 metros.

View state rankings.

View slide presentation.