Baby Boomers Fuel Thriving Health Industry

Total U.S. job losses for the first six months of the year have hit 438,000, with an average of 73,000 jobs lost each month, many in construction, manufacturing and employment services. Construction alone has lost 528,000 jobs since its peak in September 2006

But job openings in the health care field continue to grow, according a July 3 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since June 2007, health care has added 348,000 jobs. In June alone, 15,000 jobs were added in the field, 13,000 in ambulatory services.

Meanwhile, financial planners say health care companies are a good investment in bad economic times.

"I don't want to be giving stock tips," said Mark Johannessen, president of the national Financial Planning Association. "But for a long term investor, related stocks in the pharmaceutical industry and extended-care facilities are a reasonable place to be, especially if you take into account the baby boomers and their medical needs when they come of age."

Johannessen advises following tried-and-true investment rule of diversifying your portfolio, but he added that mutual funds that specialize in health care issues are a good bet.

Offering Second Careers

The burgeoning industry also offers job opportunities for baby boomers, many of whom are staying in the work place longer or returning to second-career jobs in health care after retirement, according to AARP, the organization that advocates for the rights of older Americans.

"But this positive economic news is not necessarily a good sign," AARP spokesman Jim Dau told ABCNEWS.com.

AARP commissioned a nationwide survey to determine how people age 45 and older were responding to the current economic slowdown. It found that 17 percent of younger boomers — ages 45 to 54 — were making cutbacks on their medications because of the economic downturn.

Taking those types of medical shortcuts can have long-term medical and financial consequences, according to Dau.

There are also concerns that the growing acceptance and array of medical choices could lead to difficult economic decisions that don't always pay off in better health.

"Health care costs are exploding, and it has a huge impact on individuals, employers and government spending. This is the biggest issue we are looking at for the next administration," Dau said.

"The health care system's rapid adoption of emerging medical technologies has, in many instances, provided enormous clinical benefits, such as prolonged life and improved quality of life," according to a recent Congressional Budget Report.

Those technologies come at a price.

"Newer, more expensive diagnostic or therapeutic services are sometimes used in cases in which older, cheaper alternatives could offer comparable outcomes for patients," it said. "And expensive services that are known to be highly effective in some patients are occasionally used for other patients for whom clinical benefits have not been rigorously demonstrated."

'Walking a Thin Line'

The companies reaping profits say the effective and cost-conscious delivery of medical care is on their agenda as well.

"Access to health care is a critical issue to the country, and we are working with our industry peers to develop programs and make it more affordable through patient assistant programs and sensitive pricing," Johnson & Johnson Corporate Communications Director Bill Price told ABCNews.com.

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