FOCUS: Health Care Providers Expected to Ramp Up Hiring as Reform Takes Hold

(The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT) -

One thing’s for sure when it comes to the impact of the Affordable Care Act: Health care and related industries are going to be on a hiring spree in the years to come to meet the demands of the law.

While critics say the law will cause companies to cut jobs or work hours so they will not be penalized for not offering health care coverage – actions that are already under way, according to anecdotal reports – other observers say the law will create scores of jobs.

Health care providers will need more nurse practitioners and physician assistants, and companies that are required to offer insurance to employees will need more human resources staffers to keep track of their compliance. Experts also expect more jobs for computer programmers and other information technology professionals, customer service representatives, insurance agents, and wellness and fitness coaches.

Susan Mesa, president of the job placement service, said the Affordable Care Act will only increase demand for nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who are already in demand because of a physician shortage and the growth of accountable care organizations, which are networks of doctors and hospitals that share responsibility for patient care to keep costs down.

“Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are attractive options because they can do 75 to 85 percent of the work a physician does at 55 to 65 percent of the cost,” Mesa told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Research has also shown that use of advanced practice practitioners can improve patient satisfaction and health care delivery efficiency.”

According to the Obama administration, more than 2.1 million people have enrolled in private health insurance plans by signing up on new state and federal websites since they were launched in October. The federal site,, handles sign-ups for 36 states. The remaining 14 states and the District of Columbia have their own sites.

“More insured people means an increase in the need for different types of health services, ranging from direct care to research and maintenance of medical records,” Tony Lee, publisher of, said in releasing a recent study on the need for more health care workers.

Last fall, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, in a forecast on minority hiring due to the Affordable Care Act, projected the health care industry overall could add a total of 4.6 million jobs in the next decade, a 31 percent increase from the current level. The group estimated a third of overall hiring could be the result of changes due to health care reform.

In addition to biomedical engineering positions, CareerCast says, the health care professions most in demand this year will be dental hygienists, occupational therapists, optometrists, physical therapists, chiropractors, speech pathologists, pharmacists, podiatrists, respiratory therapists and physician assistants.