When people think about the impact of the Affordable Care Act, AKA “Obamacare,” they tend to consider how it affects patients seeking medical care, but it is set to have a significant impact also on workers within the healthcare industry, including medical assistants. With increased access to healthcare coverage for Americans nationwide, there will be an increased number of patients — an estimated 30 million by 2016 — who were previously uninsured and are now eager to utilize their new coverage. As one healthcare professional put it, “When people have health insurance, they demand more healthcare.” And more healthcare, of course, means more patients, which in turn means a greater need for medical staff. By some estimates, medical jobs could expand by 250,000 to 400,000 a year for the next decade.
Medical assistants in particular will come in handy because it’s expected that the newly insured patients will be more likely to visit doctors’ offices — where most medical assistants work — rather than going to a hospital emergency room.
Furthermore, according to one report, the workload of primary care physicians is expected to rise by about 30% in the two decades between 2005 and 2025, but in that same time, the number of primary care physicians is expected to rise by no more than 7%. This means that doctors will increasingly rely on support staff, like medical assistants, to make the flow of patients quicker and more efficient.
Additionally, doctors will need more highly educated, highly skilled, licensed workers like nurse practitioners and physician assistants who can lighten their workload by actually performing some of the medical procedures, and as healthcare workers move up the ladder into these jobs, they will leave their previous jobs open — many of which were medical assistant positions. In fact, the Affordable Care Act will spur this job growth by providing $1.5 billion through 2015 for scholarships and loan forgiveness for primary care physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants working in “health professional shortage areas,” locations that don’t have enough access to doctors and other medical professionals.
A further spike in job opportunities — both in and out of the medical industry — might occur when older workers, including medical assistants, who are holding on to their jobs only because they need the healthcare coverage decide to retire.
All in all, the next decade should be a fruitful time if you’re searching for a healthcare job.
(Sources: The Congressional Budget Office, Yahoo!, Health Affairs, NJ.com, The New York Times, Market Watch, Rasmussen College, The Commonweath Fund, New Republic)