Reports show impact of health-care industry in each of Kentucky’s 120 counties

It’s not often that such detailed data is broken down to the county level, but a new report looks at the economic impact of the local health-care system in each of Kentucky’s 120 counties.

The reports, compiled at the University of Kentucky, look at the number of health-care jobs, as well as the revenue and income generated by the local health-care system. In many rural counties, the authors note, health care is the second largest industry, second only to local government.

The most important economic role of the health-care sector is to “keep local health-care dollars at home,” the report says. If private insurance, consumer out-of-pocket payments and Medicare and Medicaid transfer payments aren’t kept local, an outmigration of health-care services can take place. “This bypass of local health care remains an important issue for many rural health care providers and rural communities.”

Conversely, if the local health-care sector can attract patients from outside the area, health care “can act as an export industry,” the authors note. Because doctors and other providers can help improve the health and productivity of the local workforce, the health-care sector can also help an area recruit new and retain existing business.

The county reports include a comparison of household income with the state and nation, and indicates how that income is earned. In Boyle County, for example, 55.6 percent was earned through place-of-work earnings, while 22.6 percent was from transfer payments, such as those from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The reports also break down how much income is generated according to industry type, from 2000 to 2008.

Income earned by Boyle County residents working in the health-care sector increased 42 percent in those years, one of the largest areas of gains in the county. In all, health care accounted for 13 percent of industry in Boyle and generated more than $322 million in sales, more than $151 million in labor income and nearly 3,500 jobs in the area.

The report, available here, was compiled by Dr. Alison Davis, director of the Community and Ecomomic Development Initiative in Kentucky, part of UK’s College of Agriculture. It was funded by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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