Health care has been a hot topic among politicians, the public and the many industries that will be impacted by new laws. In some sense everyone will be affected, with some aspects of health care legislation taking effect immediately and others delayed until 2014.
But, for those pursuing careers in health care administration, the stakes are even higher. Contained within more than 2,000 pages of legislation is the framework for a changing industry, and you need to know how it will affect both job prospects and job duties once employment is obtained. Here are three things you need to know now:
More coverage = higher demand
There's no question that health care has been a growth industry. The New York Times reported that more than four million people work for hospitals and that hospitals were responsible for hiring 135,000 new employees in 2008. While the economy has impacted most aspects of private business, there are signs that the future looks particularly bright for health care. New legislation is expected to help as many as 30 million more people obtain coverage over the next few years, which adds to the demand for resources, services, facilities and the administrators needed to oversee them.
That demand is good news for those looking to get into the health administration field. According to Professor Tom O'Hare with The American College, a growing financial focus on health care should lead to better salaries for workers as well.
"I would think the addition of broadened health care coverage now and the new health reform legislation is going to put many additional dollars into the health care system," O'Hare says. "As you have greater demand for people in those areas, increased compensation will go along with it."
Electronic records will be an even bigger part of your job.
O'Hare pointed out that over his decades of experience in the health care industry - including positions with the American Hospital Association in Chicago and the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA) - the idea of electronic records has always been an industry goal. But while the health care field has been slow to adopt an electronic standard, the new law is accelerating both technology and responsibility when it comes to patient records and reimbursement. "The government is forcing more and more electronic record-keeping," O'Hare says, noting that Medicare reimbursement has certain electronic requirements. That means a health administrator today will have challenges managing systems as the industry transitions to more uniform electronic record-keeping, although O'Hare believes that the transition will make an administrator's job easier in the long run.
Expect increased job diversity.
O'Hare said that jobs in the health industry are becoming more specialized as the delivery of care becomes more complex. Even compared to just 15 years ago, there are many more people performing specialized tasks beyond the traditional doctor-nurse model of previous decades. From nursing assistants to technicians to housekeeping and other support staff, an administrator will have to manage a growing field of service personnel. "I'm sure it's going to continue to change as both health care delivery and health care financing become more sophisticated," O'Hare says. "The scope of [administrator] responsibility is going to increase as well."