As the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare, begins to kick in many medical billing and coding professionals are wondering what effects this new legislation will have on their industry. As medical coding and billing professionals are aware, the current system can be tedious and at times confusing. Whether the ACA will simplify or complicate this is another matter. However there is always one fact that is guaranteed: people will become sick or injured and visit their doctor, and doctors will continue to bill their services.
The ACA has been sold to the public on two main provisions: as a piece of legislation to provide millions of Americans with insurance who do not already have it, and to make healthcare more affordable. Considering this first point in itself can begin to shed some light on the effects of the ACA.
In theory, thanks to the ACA more Americans will have health insurance. Assuming this turns out to be the case, more insured Americans means more people obtaining healthcare services, which logically means a greater demand for the medical billing and coding profession. So far so good.
One of the provisions to provide coverage for more people was the expansion of Medicaid. During the Supreme Court challenge of the ACA, justices declared that Medicaid expansion was an optional provision which states could choose to accept or reject. Although some have done this latter, others have chosen to expand their Medicaid system, and although many medical billing and coding professionals start to get a migraine when they think about billing with the federal government, for many others it is the only thing they do. The Medicaid program is nothing new, and as this expands it simply means a greater demand for billers and coders who specialize in this niche.
However this also alludes to another possibility. Some have speculated that as the federal government begins to foot the bill for more citizens it will be able to have a greater influence over the prices the medical industry sets for their services. Of course medical billing and coding professionals will already recognize this in the reduced rates that are billed to the existing Medicare and Medicaid programs. The fear is that these rates could be reduced even further, leaving doctors, hospitals, long-term care facilities and other medical provides with less money in their pockets. This in turn could have a real impact on the salaries of medical billing and coding professionals.
Speculation this is however, and the many expansions Medicare has undergone since it was created in 1965 combined with the bottle-necking baby boomer generation exploding the demand in the medical billing and coding industry, it is difficult to compare the salary of a medical billing and coding professional in the past with that of the present, and to predict the macro effects more government influence on reimbursement prices could actually have.
Less likely but far more devastating to the industry would be a single-payer, government mediated insurance program based on some European models of healthcare such as the National Health Service of England. As basically a universal Medicare system, this would greatly simplify the industry and despite having additional population coverage, the amount of jobs lost in the profession would greatly outweigh this benefit. Think how accountants would feel if the IRS simplified the tax code so everyone from multinational corporations to Joe the plumber filled out a 1040EZ.
But fortunately for the medical billing and coding profession, the chances of switching to a single-payer healthcare system are less than having the tax code simplified- and we all know what the odds of that are. So the overall prognosis: Obamacare means more people will have health insurance coverage, more medical services will be obtained, and there will be a greater demand for medical billing and coding professionals.