Good News Not Totally Absent in Healthcare

Last Updated May 6, 2008 6:46 AM EDT

Crawling Under the RocksMedical costs continue to rise much faster than general inflation, the insurance safety net is fraying as health plans and hospitals push the financial burden of being ill back onto the sick themselves, and even people who get their insurance through work have seen their premium contributions rise ten times faster than their incomes. But it turns out there's some good news in the healthcare industry:
While the nation as a whole lost some 20,000 jobs during the month of April, employment increases were seen in hospitals and physician offices, according to preliminary seasonally adjusted figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Hospitals hired about 9,400 people in April for a 0.2% increase over March, and the roughly 4.61 million people employed at hospitals represented a 2.8% increase from 4.49 million in April 2007. Physician-office employment rose by around 7,600 during April for a 0.3% increase, and the almost 2.26 million physician-office employees represented a 3.1% gain compared with April 2007's total of just over 2.19 million.

Meanwhile, Aetna has a new strategy for expanding access to health insurance -- it will require more than 1,300 of its vendors and suppliers to offer healthcare plans to their employees:
The health insurer has set a goal of having 80% of all its vendors offering health benefits by 2010, and all vendors must offer workers coverage by 2012, Aetna announced in a letter to shareholders in its 2007 annual report.

"As a business leader, we have both an opportunity and an obligation to be part of the solution to the problem of the uninsured," said Ronald Williams, chairman and chief executive officer of Aetna, in the letter. "We expect nothing less from the companies that do business with Aetna."

That's a pretty big-hearted idea, especially since I'm sure none of those vendors or suppliers will be under any compunction whatsoever to offer Aetna plans to their workers.

Anyway, it's nice to know that not all the news coming out of healthcare is bleak. You just have to know where to look.

Image by Flickr user Betsssssy, CC 2.0

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    David Hamilton is the assistant managing editor of CNET News. He has been writing and editing business and tech coverage for about two decades -- the majority of that at the Wall Street Journal in both Tokyo and San Francisco. He is a two-time winner of the Overseas Press Club award and has written for numerous magazines and blogs, including Slate, Science, VentureBeat, CBS Interactive's BNET, California Lawyer and the New Republic.