The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that health care employment rose by 30,000 in August 2011. The U.S. unemployment rate has been stalled at approximately 9 percent for several months, and overall job growth in August for the nation as a whole was zero. In contrast: over the past 12 months, health care employment has grown by 306,000, an increase of over 2 percent. In August alone, ambulatory health care services and hospitals added 18,000 and 8,000 jobs, according to preliminary, seasonally-adjusted figures.
Modern Healthcare reports that physician offices added 5,600 workers in August, and for the 12 months ending in August, physician-office hiring increased 2.2 percent.
CPC® Salaries on the Rise
In related news, AAPC’s annual Salary Survey of nearly 12,000 respondents revealed that average salaries for coding professionals have risen. The average wage for a CPC® in 2011 was approximately $46,800 (up $1,400 from last year). Individuals with advanced certifications earned more, on average. For example, those holding both a CPC® and CPC-H® earned over $54,700 annually (an increase of nearly $4,000 since 2010). Respondents with a CPC-I® did even better, pulling in over $76,000 per year (up over $6,000 from last year).
Taken together, these figures show that, even in a down economy, health care continues to add workers to payrolls and create opportunities for wage increases.
Trouble Looms for Hospitals
As AHANews reports, however, health care jobs could be lost if Congress’ Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction fails to reach a compromise on spending cuts, according to an analysis by Tripp Umbach. The Budget Control Act created the committee to recommend deficit reductions. If Congress fails to act on the committee’s proposal or send a balanced budget amendment to the states before the end of the year, the Budget Control Act would automatically trigger cuts totaling $1.2 trillion. The Medicare program would be subject to a cut of up to 2 percent, which the study estimates could lead to the loss of 194,522 hospital and related jobs by 2021.
September 16th, 2011
Working with patients to assure everyone is accountable for the cost of care is essential to the success of a practice. Just as important is working out the processes and communications so that all are satisfied, which can assure patient retention. Here are two readers’ best-practice recommendations:
“Five years ago we implemented refined collection practices which made a substantial difference in our cash flow. We started by verifying all patients’ insurances prior to the date of service. We then ascertained the amount of co-pays and/or deductibles that are the patients’ responsibilities at the time of service. All current contracts and spread sheets of allowable per payer were reviewed. This was followed by staff training to calculate out-of-pocket percentages. A substantial impact on patient responsibility was then noted. Early notice to patients of their financial obligation has increased prompt collections. Payment plans are implemented for three months. Statements are sent bi-weekly. These processes have improved overall cash flow and reduced our account receivables.”
—Michele Thompson, CPC
“Our obstetrics and gynecology practice is set in a community that has a high unemployment rate, which means people want to have surgery but may not come up with the money. Our practice originally would schedule the patients’ elective surgeries and require their portion of the payment be collected the Wednesday prior to surgeries which would be done on the following Monday. Patients were not paying but still getting their surgeries or the patients would call and cancel their surgeries last minute because they could not come up with the money. This would not allow us enough time to fill the doctors’ schedule again.
“Surgery scheduling is not a quick process and neither is cancelling. To help combat the cancelling and the wasting of employees’ and doctors’ time, we changed how we set up surgeries. We now verify the patients’ benefits prior to calling them. After verification is complete and we know the patients’ responsibility according to our fee schedule, we contact and inform them of their amount due. We inform them at that time we are unable to schedule until we receive their investment portion.
“Since we started this policy, we have only had a couple of patients complain. When this happens, we explain why we created the policy and they understand. It has helped with efficiency of the employees’ and the doctors’ schedule to remain consistent without many cancellations.”
—Kristin Terry, CPC
Spring Hill, FL
December 22nd, 2010
According to an article published Nov. 5 in ModernHealthcare.com, the U.S. economy added 151,000 jobs in October as other industries rejoined health care in creating new jobs, but national unemployment remained unchanged at 9.6 percent for the fifth consecutive month. (more…)
November 12th, 2010