Tuesday, November 10, 2009

First, Unionize All The Physcians

With all the controversy about health (insurance) reform and considering my interest in employment and unionism issues I figured there must be some sort of angle on this issue for me.

Being lazy by nature I used readily available sources of information like http://www.unionstats.com

I was amazed to find that between 1983 and 2008 the level of unionism in hospital employment hadn't really changed that much. In 1983 union density in hospital employment was 17.6 percent compared to 15.3 percent in 2008. So, it fell like the rest of union density figures, but not quite so much as the national average. That may be because some hospital employment is in the public sector.

In 2008 public employment was 36.8 percent union compared to just 7.6 percent on private payrolls. Unfortunately, the data on hospital employment doesn't make that distinction.

Some cynics have gone so far as to suggest that one of the reasons the unions are insisting on a so-called "public option" is that they think it would be easier to organize workers whose livelihood depended on the public dole. Forfend!

It is interesting to note that between 1983 and 2008 the U.S. population increased by 30 percent, total employment increased by 46 percent while hospital employment only increased by 42 percent.

Don't worry. It's not all this boring. I saved the best for last.

The real shocker for me was the data on physicians. Between 1983 and 2008 the number of physicians increased from 243,505 to 653,392. That's an increase of 168 percent. During that same time employment in physicians' offices increased by 119 percent.

An interesting sidelight on this, in this case from the Bureau of National Affairs "Union Membership and Earnings Data Book," is that in 2008, 6.3 percent of physicians were union members and they earned an average of $35.84 an hour compared to $56.46 for those who were nonunion.

Maybe there's a lesson in that for those concerned about reducing health care costs. To paraphrase the Bard, "First, unionize all the physicians."

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