The 2014 Midterm Election’s Impact on Medical Billing and Coding

While Republicans taking control of both houses of congress will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact on the United States, medical billing and coding professionals need not consider their job security one way or another.

The election result’s impact on the viability of the Affordable Care Act after the Republican midterm sweep would be an obvious first question. Regardless of a person’s own political view, from a medical billing and coding standpoint the fact that more people have health insurance means more employment for professionals in this field. An article in the New York Times published just over a week ago points out that between 8 to 11 million Americans have gained health care coverage since enrollment began under the Affordable Care Act about a year ago. Although there are several pending Supreme Court cases that could have an impact on the ACA, this cannot be repealed even with a Republican majority in the House and Senate.

Medical Billing and Coding Field Insulated from Party Politics

While politics can have an effect on individual medical billing and coding policies or rules – and more rarely on the industry as a whole in the case of a large piece of legislation like the Affordable Care Act – in general this field is largely insulated from elections. However this is not to say that it is devoid of politics.

The medical industry, as one of the largest industries in the United States, employs armies of lobbyists. The results of lobbying can and do have an impact on medical billing and coding professionals. For example, many in this field attribute congress’s decision last April to delay of the implementation of the ICD-10 by another year as being in no small part due to lobbying from the American Medical Association (AMA). This delay impacts virtually every medical billing and coding professional in America. Although lobbying is closely related to elections, and although the decision to delay the ICD-10 did have a direct impact on billing and coding professionals, this impact was not felt in terms of overall employment but rather in policy, as is generally the case.

It is also logical to think that national medical associations, and especially government agencies such as the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) would also be susceptible to the influence of party politics. In fact, most of the decisions made by these groups are made by doctors and not politicians. Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) – developed by the American Medical Association as a medical billing code and classification system that is also incidentally used by CMS – is one example where party politics has remarkably little influence. The AMA panel that determines CPT is comprised of 17 members, 15 of whom are doctors with the remaining two being members of an advisory committee.

No matter the political party or current laws on the books people are going to get sick and need medical services. Someone is always going to need to code and bill these services. For these two reasons alone, medical billing and coding professionals are for the most part unaffected by whichever party controls the White House, Senate, or House.