Dr. F. Dean Griffen, president of the Louisiana State Medical Society.
Louisiana’s office-based physicians had an economic impact of $11 billion, helped support nearly 49,000 jobs and $400 million in local and state taxes in 2009, according to a report commissioned by the American Medical Association.
The AMA said it hopes to get the data, compiled by The Lewin Group, into the hands of “key policymakers, legislators and thought leaders in medicine.”
The report shows that in addition to providing care for their patients, office-based physicians play a vital role in the state and local economies, creating jobs, buying goods and services and paying taxes that support state and community public programs.
“In these times of rapid change in the health care industry it is important to understand how changes affect office-based physicians,” the report says.
Dr. F. Dean Griffen, president of the Louisiana State Medical Society, said doctors haven’t been looked at as a resource for community development, but the report shows physicians’ importance to the economy.
The report estimates the direct and indirect impacts of physicians. Direct benefits include revenue generated by the practice of medicine; wages and benefits that go to physicians and their employees; jobs created by office-based physicians; and taxes paid by physicians and employees.
Indirect impacts include purchases of equipment and supplies, practice administrative services, cleaning and property maintenance services; and clinical and laboratory.
The indirect and direct effects make up the “multiplier” that drives an economic impact analysis, according to The Lewin Group. The total impact is a multiple of the economic benefit directly generated from the practice of medicine. The multiplier reflects the number of times that each dollar generated in the practice of medicine circulates through the local economy, supporting jobs and spending.
For example, the report shows that each of the state’s 8,569 office-based physicians supported 5.7 indirect and direct jobs, including his own.
Those sorts of numbers show attracting physicians can provide an economic boost similar to bringing in a riverboat or a movie, Griffen said.
Anything that can be done to encourage doctors to come to Louisiana would be economically beneficial to the state and to the communities where the physicians set up a practice, Griffen said.
In order to attract businesses, the state offers incentives, such as tax breaks for film makers, according to Griffen. But Louisiana doesn’t necessarily do that much to support the medical community.
Every state has a different numbers of doctors, and state policies, such as Medicaid reimbursements, affect physician recruitment, Griffen said. Louisiana is No. 22 of the 50 states in terms of doctors per capita, which is pretty good.
But he said there are not enough residencies or advanced training programs to handle all the graduates of the state’s three medical schools. Most of the time, the students that go on to other states to learn how to be surgeons, orthopedists, or pediatricians, don’t return.
“But if we have the most wonderful work environment anywhere for doctors, well then all of a sudden our doctors per capita go up and revenues improve,” Griffen said. “We pay more taxes. We support more ambulance services. We support more physical therapists. We support more people who sell wheelchairs, and overall the state benefits in terms of its economic welfare.”
A more attractive work environment – one of the most important factors for physicians when it comes to choosing where they will practice – will also mean a higher quality of care in Louisiana, Griffen said.
“We pride ourselves on providing healthcare, but honestly we don’t do it very well compared to how we could do if we had more doctors per capita,” Griffen said.
Doctors already face inadequate reimbursements with the Louisiana Medicaid system, Griffen said. By 2014, 58 percent of the state’s population will be covered by Medicaid.
But just because a patient has insurance, there is no guarantee there will be a physician available to see him or her, Griffen said. If the state Legislature doesn’t sufficiently support the state Department of Health and Hospitals, community hospitals and physicians, if Medicaid reimbursements remain inadequate and doctors can’t keep their offices open, pretty soon those doctors will be driven to practice in other states.
Griffen said Louisiana has done a good job of bringing in the movie industry by providing tax breaks that make the state an attractive location.
“Well if you want to have enough doctors to generate revenue, you have to make a pleasant working environment for them,” Griffen said.
Two of the ways to address that involve improving reimbursements and lowering medical liability costs, Griffen said. Those are the top issues for physicians, and Louisiana needs to be aware that to support the medical industry, legislation should address those needs.