In addition, AHA says that hospitals are the second-largest sources of private sector jobs, support another 10 million jobs in the economy through "ripple effects," and spend more than $702 billion each year on goods and services from other businesses.
Stuart Altman, professor of national health policy at The Heller School at Brandeis University, calls the economic activity generated by hospitals and healthcare "a mixed blessing."
"There is no question it is a major economic force in many if not most communities. It is often the largest employer. It has transformed communities," Altman says.
"Even big cities like Pittsburgh and Boston. Pittsburgh in particular was reeling from the loss of steel and other industries and now it is a healthcare mecca. If we were to cut that spending it would reduce that component of the local economy."
"On the other hand it is draining funds from other industries and state governments and communities which can use that money to generate other kinds of jobs," Altman says. "It is a big mistake to use economic power as an excuse for not finding the right balance for what we should spend on healthcare. We should spend what we need to spend and no more."
Steinberg says hospitals have a tremendous "multiplier effect" in the communities they serve.
"For every $1 you put into healthcare you get $3.28 back," she says. "One thing that is different about healthcare and hospitals in particular is that most of the money stays in the local community."