In South Florida, Risk Of Unemployment Would Accompany Health Reform Benefits

The Miami Herald reports that healthcare reform could acutely affect South Florida and provide both benefits and risks.

The paper notes that in "few places are healthcare costs more bloated than South Florida, especially Miami." The area has incredibly high Medicare costs, high doctor referrals for specialists, high levels of orders for high-tech imaging tests, employer-based health insurance that is 20 percent more expensive, expensive home health care, a high level of uninsured people and a lot of Medicare fraud and abuse. As a result, health care reform could mean: "the loss of billions of dollars to the South Florida economy, some hospitals consolidated or closed, and the disappearance of untold number of jobs in the lucrative healthcare field."

The Miami Herald reports: "With so much at stake, you might expect South Florida's medical establishment to be aligned against reform. Not true. They acknowledge that the present system is wrong and needs to be changed. ... Many patients are desperate for fast action. ... And yet change will be painful and disorienting, especially in South Florida. Federal labor statistics show 218,000 healthcare employees work in Miami-Dade and Broward. They earned $9.8 billion in 2007. Much of that income is supported by Medicare, which paid $9.4 billion in the two counties in 2007. Eliminating some of that Medicare money will mean eliminating existing jobs." The paper notes: "As reform moves along, all these high-cost areas will be targeted for reductions. If the feds succeed in reducing Medicare costs in South Florida to the national average -- admittedly a monumental task, experts say -- it could mean more than $4 billion removed from the local economy" (Dorschner, 6/27).

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