5 Graduate Careers Boosted by the Affordable Care Act
Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) came into effect, much of the attention has been focused on the specific mandates of the new law, specifically the requirement that all Americans carry health insurance.
However, the Affordable Care Act is changing more than just the landscape of healthcare in the US. After a long period of slow growth, the new healthcare rules are helping breathe some life back into the job market by creating new career opportunities.
Consider some of the graduate career sectors that are new or expanding:
1. Health insurance navigators
The ACA is complex and for the average person who has never purchased health insurance, the wide array of policy options and tax credits can be overwhelming. An insurance navigator is a trained professional who helps individuals choose and purchase health coverage by explaining the new marketplaces and helping determine whether the purchaser qualifies for tax credits or subsidies. The navigator can also help with enrollment.
The average pay for a health insurance navigator is about $30 per hour, and most work for local and state agencies, as the government funds the positions. Qualifications vary by agency, but navigators are required to complete a 20-30 hour certification course before working with consumers.
Whenever there is a major change in any industry, there is often a need for trained consultants to help businesses understand and adjust to those changes. The Affordable Care Act is no different. From businesses that need help determining the best ways to maximize the benefits that they offer employees, to medical providers who want to improve the quality of services they provide, to pharmaceutical and medical device companies that want to tap into the myriad opportunities that the ACA presents, there is a wide range of graduate career opportunities for consultants.
In general, consulting work requires a high level of education (most consultants have a master’s degree or higher) and several years of experience, but the pay is commensurate with those requirements, with most healthcare consultants earning $80,000 per year or more.
3. Healthcare administrators
Today’s healthcare landscape is highly focused on quantitative analysis. One of the cornerstones of the Affordable Care Act is the development of Accountable Care Organizations, which reimburse providers based on the quality of care they provide. Someone needs to be in charge of managing quality care — and crunching the numbers — which means that there will be unprecedented career opportunities for healthcare administrators.
However, it’s not just the focus on costs that will create graduate career opportunities. As access to care expands, doctors and hospitals will have to become more innovative in how they deliver care. Healthcare administrators are necessary to help develop programs that will improve access to care, improve health education in communities and better contain costs.
The changing face of healthcare also increases the need for better communication — both internally and externally — and for more effective human resources management. Healthcare administrators earn a median salary of about $88,000 per year. Most hold at least a bachelor’s degree, although many facilities prefer administrators to have a master’s degree.
4. Medical coders
The influx of new patients into the healthcare system is expected to create as many as 40 million new patient charts, all of which will need to be coded and entered into electronic medical records. Because the requirements of the new law are so stringent and require more in-depth knowledge of medical terminology, it’s expected that medical coder productivity will decrease – therefore increasing the demand for new medical coders. On average, coders earn between $45,000 and $60,000 per year, and most do not need a college degree.
With so many new patients entering the healthcare system thanks to the ACA, it only makes sense that there will need to be an increase in the number of healthcare providers as well, in order to meet the increased demand. Nursing practitioners (NPs) and advanced practice nurses will see some of the greatest increases in demand, as new nurse-managed community health centers open around the country.
While the scope of practice varies from state to state, in many areas, NPs will provide much of the primary and preventive care, relieving some of the burden from doctors and hospitals. Advance practice nurses earn an average of $100,000 per year, and must hold at least a master’s degree in addition to the appropriate certifications.
While the debate over the Affordable Care Act’s impact on the economy will continue for years to come, for now, we’re seeing an influx of new opportunities and new jobs because of the law. Whether you’re studying business, medicine, law or administration, chances are, there will be an exciting new graduate career waiting for you thanks to the ACA.