The Affordable Care Act is helping Americans and creating new jobs

In addition to the millions of Americans signing on to Obamacare that the White House has announced recently, the Affordable Care Act will also help create many new jobs in the healthcare arena in our country due to the shortage of coders in the healthcare industry.

Under Obamacare, roughly 40 million new patients will enter our healthcare system and that will create the need to code hundreds of millions of new charts each year. Also, an aging population will contribute to more charts needing to be done as more patient visits will occur to Doctors and Hospitals. Under ICD-10 productivity estimates, a coder will take half an hour to code an average outpatient chart and an hour on average to code an inpatient chart. Think of the millions of new coders and billers that will have to be hired within the healthcare industry over the next 5 years. This will make medical coding one of the fastest growing professions in the country.

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The new medical coding requirements under ICD-10 are much more specific and requires more in-depth knowledge from a medical coder, such as subject matter expertise in medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and pathophysiology. This paradigm shift in the elevation of a medical coder’s importance to the revenue cycle of a healthcare facility and level of expertise required, along with an aging medical coding population is causing a significant shortage of coders and billers in healthcare.

Furthermore, it is expected that productivity will drop by at least 50 percent for coders and billers in the new world of ICD-10, as it happened in the other countries as they transitioned into ICD-10. The increased workload may even have a more severe impact on productivity here in the U.S. because our ICD-10 is different and more rigorous as we will code for reimbursement, different from other countries that are single payer systems.

The Affordable Care Act is changing the healthcare industry in a positive way. The health insurance industry will now be subject to federal regulations which will assure that everyone is treated fairly and equally. Further, rates will be monitored to make sure that most of the premiums you pay will go towards providing health care and not insurance company profits and administrative expenses, such as multimillion dollar insurance company executive salaries. No longer will health insurance companies be able to charge exorbitant rates, deny or limit coverage, and pick and choose the healthiest while making life difficult for those with debilitating conditions.

There will also be more individualized health care for more folks as health care for all is expected to improve the innovation of physicians, hospitals and insurance companies by encouraging and rewarding better health care outcomes, more home and community based medicine, and less unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency room visits. Our hospitals are responding to the challenges by creating new programs which center on improving access to care for each individual patient. The new health programs are expected to provide more health education and support services to improve every patients’ overall functionality

The Affordable Care Act has helped create a great opportunity for many people who need to work remotely because of its flexible nature and many can work from home. An example would be wounded warriors, the unemployed, returning veterans and spouses, single parents, high school graduates who don’t want to go on to a degree program, all whom are great candidates for a career in medical coding. Even other existing healthcare professionals and clinical people who are interested in a more administrative role would be interested in this career. It will pay very well, as it is predicted that a new medical coder in ICD-10 with no experience will command between $45k and 60k on average. No college degree required.

The biggest challenge from ICD-10 will be the vacuum created by the huge shortage of talent. Medical Coders, clinical documentation specialists, and other health IT professionals will all be in great demand. Intended or unintended, we have the Department of Health and Human Services and the Obama administration to thank for all these new job possibilities in healthcare. 

Shapiro is chairman and CEO of the CODESMART Group, Inc., a purveyor of healthcare coding solutions.