If you look around your workplace, you might see a grandmother at one desk, a pierced punk rocker at another and a young mom at a third. Today’s workplace includes multiple generations and often includes people from different ethnic backgrounds or even recent immigrants. In addition, these demographic trends are affecting health care and medical billing.
Variety in Age Groups
The American Association of Retired Persons reports that in 2006, the median age of U.S. workers was 40 -- the highest median age in history. In addition, the baby boomer generation is expected to work longer than their parents might have done, which means the workplace is more likely to include multiple generations. Younger workers also will be entering the workforce, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, but the middle-aged group of workers will shrink. From a manager’s perspective, the multigenerational workforce in medical billing offices increases complexity, as the generations have different viewpoints and expectations about work performance, hours and compensation.
Expertise with Medicare
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports people over 65 will account for 20 percent of the American population by 2025. One impact of the aging population is that more people will be on Medicare, which affects the way in which health care services are billed. Medicare pays for certain services, although the billing requirements are very complex and can be confusing. Medical billers must be expert at deciphering the intricacies of the system to ensure they are paid correctly and that patients are not billed inappropriately. Billers also must deal with a variety of insurance plans other than Medicare that cover younger and middle-aged workers.
In addition to changes related to age, other demographic trends such as immigration patterns are expected to affect the workforce. Hispanics and Asians will be 19 percent of the population by 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Medical billers who must communicate with people who don’t speak English may need to become fluent in Spanish or other languages to clarify information or discuss billing issues. Billers might need to work with interpreters, which increases the risk of miscommunication and adds time to the billing process.
Impact of Affordable Care
The Affordable Care Act also will have an impact on medical billing, although the details of the impact are unclear. At a minimum, policy changes due to cancellations and new policies for patients who previously had different or no coverage can be expected to affect medical billers’ workloads. Website problems plagued the ACA during the signup phase and many experts expressed concerns that problems with verification and billing issues would remain after implementation, according to a November article from National Public Radio. The article notes that younger people are more likely to elect not to obtain insurance, which will affect medical billers as they must deal with self-pay patients in addition to insured patients.
- American Association of Retired Persons: Leading a Multigenerational Workforce
- U.S. Department of Labor: An Overview of Economic, Social and Demographic Trends Affecting the US Labor Market
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The State of Aging and Health in America 2013
- American Academy of Professional Coders: What is Medical Billing?
- National Public Radio: A New Worry Looms Online for the Affordable Care Act
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.