Political Controversy Impacts Medical Billing and Coding

The political storm over what is variously known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or Obamacare has not died down since it was passed in 2010, nor is it expected to at least until the end of the 2014 midterm elections. Perhaps the single most galvanizing campaign issue of this election cycle, one of the most significant aspects of the Affordable Care Act is the expansion of Medicaid. Currently there are 26 states that have chosen to take advantage of additional federal dollars and expand Medicaid, providing healthcare coverage to an additional 4.3 million Americans. The 24 remaining states that have opted-out or delayed coming to a decision on the expansion of Medicaid have so far prevented the program from covering an additional 5.7 million people.

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In terms of the medical billing and coding field, this number of both newly covered and remaining-uninsured Americans is significant. According to the US Census, in 2009 there were 48.6 million Americans without health insurance, or just under 16 percent of the entire population. With this as a base figure, that means that the 4.3-million Americans who are now covered because of Medicaid expansion represent an increase of 1.4 percent of the nationally insured population. If the remaining 5.7 million people become covered by Medicaid, that would mean a total of 3.2 percent of all uninsured Americans gained coverage. As might be expected, there would be a correlated rise in demand for medical billing and coding work across the nation to serve an added total of 10 million people.

As reported in a previous post about medical billing and coding statistics, there are approximately 182,370 professionals working in this field across the United States. A 3.2-percent rise in employment would mean the growth of roughly 5,835 extra jobs in the medical billing and coding industry.

While avoiding a judgment one way or the other on whether it is right for states to reject or accept expanded Medicaid coverage, it is certainly easy to extrapolate expanded coverage with an increase in demand for medical billing and coding professionals who would process the added amount of insurance and medical claims.

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Prospects for the 24 remaining states to expand coverage

The current Medicaid expansion dilemma started with the landmark Supreme Court decision that declared the Affordable Care Act to be constitutional for the most part. However the court did have a problem with the way the act was originally written, which compelled states to expand their Medicaid coverage or face the prospect of losing all federal funding for the program. Indeed, the Supreme Court deemed this to be coercion, and ruled that states could opt-out of expanding their Medicaid coverage and not risk losing additional federal funding.

Which brings us to the impasse of the present. Although significant movement is not expected on this issue anytime before the midterm elections, time is running out for states to receive any federal funding if they want to expand their Medicaid programs in 2014. Many governors of states in opposition will not support the expansion, and those that do are blocked by their respective state legislators. And while there have not lately been any hints of states changing their current positions, four states that currently oppose the Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion are working with healthcare coverage expansion programs of their own.