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By Andrew Kleinman

New York’s physicians are held in high regard for their ability to promote, maintain and restore human health, but according to a recent report, they’re equally helpful to our state’s economy.

According to the American Medical Association, physicians in New York State generate a total of more than 570,000 jobs – or 10 jobs for every doctor. In comparison, the legal profession generates 324,000 jobs, while higher education accounts for 320,000.

In terms of total annual wages and benefits, New York State’s physicians generate $57 billion worth – a figure dramatically larger than the $39 billion generated by the legal profession (nearly $23 billion) and higher education sector (about $16 billion) combined.

On a national level, the AMA report – available online at www.ama-assn.org/go/eis. – shows that physicians engaged primarily in patient care generated $1.6 trillion in overall economic activity and supported 10 million jobs in 2012 (the most recent year covered by the report). In New York, physicians contributed just under $100 billion in total economic activity, with each physician supporting almost $1.7 million in economic output.

The federal government indicates that expenditures for physician services have a ripple effect, with every dollar applied to physician services supporting a further $1.62 in other business activity. Unfortunately, spending on physician services grew more slowly between 2009 and 2012 than at any time in the last 15 years, accounting for only 16 percent of all health care dollars spent in the United States during 2012.

Despite the importance of physicians to the state’s economic vitality, concerns abound. Recent research by the Center for Health Workforce Studies indicates that the number of physicians trained here who actually remain in New York has dramatically declined in the past decade, from 53 percent in 2001 to only 44 percent in 2012.

It is imperative New York lawmakers recognize these contributions to our state’s overall economy and the challenges physicians face related to practicing in New York, including increasing government mandates as a condition of medical practice, exorbitant medical liability insurance costs and decreasing payments from Medicare and health insurers.

In large part, this drain is due to New York’s extremely challenging practice environment. We’ve repeatedly argued that this trend of doctors leaving our state is detrimental to our outstanding but fragile health care system, and the new report makes clear that it’s also harmful to New York’s overall economy. We need to do more to ensure that quality physicians remain here.

Keeping doctors in New York not only promotes good human health, it keeps our state’s economy healthy, too.

Andrew Kleinman, M.D., is president of the Medical Society of the State of New York.