In January, U.S. Health News released its list of the Best Jobs in the country for 2014. Jobs on the list are ranked based on employment opportunities, salary, satisfaction with the job and chances for professional growth. Nearly 40 percent of these Best Jobs are in the sector of health care: potentially due to expectations that the Affordable Care Act will bring new employment to many health care sectors.
Both dentist and dental hygienist are listed by U.S. News as being Best Jobs in 2014. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that dentists can expect to receive a salary of nearly $150,000 per year; a median pay that is nearly three times as high as the median yearly income in the United States. The Bureau of labor Statistics also reports that the demand for dentists is growing at a faster-than-average rate, meaning that between 2012 and 2022 employment opportunities for dentists will increase more than in other occupations.
Under the Affordable Care Act, all insurance plans are required to offer 10 essential benefits, one of which is dental care for children. The American Dental Association has said that it expects around 3 million more children to be using dental insurance and services by 2018: through Medicaid as well as private insurance from their parents. Adults will gain dental benefits as well with the passage of Obamacare: every new Medicaid policy holder will be eligible for dental benefits, and Medicaid expects to see an increase of more than 10 million dental visits per year that the insurance program will need to cover.
U.S News also reported that it expects good employment opportunities for physical therapists and occupational therapists. Both of these occupations are useful to patients recovering from an accident or learning how to live with a disability; physical therapy focuses on regaining abilities of movement, and occupational therapy focuses on a holistic view of improving the patient’s physical or mental health within a given environment.
Habilitation services are listed in the ACA as an essential service that insurance providers must cover, and many advocates for children and adults with developmental disabilities have lauded this inclusion – in particular the provision for habilitative rather than just rehabilitative services. Whereas rehabilitation is useful for a person who has been in a motorcycle accident, habilitative services refer to physical or mental care for those suffering from autism, learning disabilities, or other since-birth developmental impediments.
Prescription drug coverage is another essential benefit under Obamacare, and pharmacists are listed by U.S. News as a 2014 Best Job. President Obama has stated his commitment to closing the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap, wherein Medicare beneficiaries only received a certain amount of initial drugs coverage, and then became financially responsible for all their prescription needs, until again reaching a threshold of spending. The prescription drug gap, or Medicare donut hole as its often known, was a financial burden for many elderly beneficiaries.
The Affordable Care Act has offered Medicare enrollees a one-time stipend and further discounts to help anyone trapped in the donut hole and struggling to afford prescription drugs. President Obama has said that the Medicare coverage gap will disappear by 2020, and all of this policy work toward improving access to prescription drugs is no doubt boosting the pharmaceutical industry and job opportunities.
Because all plans sold on a federal or state health insurance exchange are required to offer preventative health benefits, 2014 is also expected to see a rise in job opportunities for physicians, physician assistants, and phlebotomists – lab assistants who draw blood. All Medicare beneficiaries are entitled to an annual wellness visit, during which they can talk with their physician about chronic illnesses, preventing disease, and the patient’s current use of medication. Everyone on an insurance plan will have access to free screenings for cholesterol, diabetes and other diseases, free immunizations, free counseling on diet, alcoholism and more.
Preventative health benefits also extend specifically to health services for women. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers must provide anemia and cervical cancer screening, support and counseling on breastfeeding, contraceptive and other sexual health services, well-women visits and more. Children are likewise given their own list of preventative services, including screening for autism and depression, fluoride supplements and immunization vaccines.
Finally, registered nurses and nurse practitioners round out U.S. News’s list of top 10 Best Jobs in the health care category. Forbes and other news outlets have suggested that the Affordable Care Act lead to more accountable care programs, wherein patients receive a visit with a nurse practitioner before being referred to a doctor, if necessary. This style of care is less expensive for the health clinic and the insurance company, and could appeal to patients who may find that nurse practitioners have more time to listen to their concerns and discuss health care options.
Shortages of nurses will also improve employment opportunities in the coming year. At the beginning of 2013, a Washington insider told the New York Post: “there aren’t enough doctors. There aren’t enough nurses.” The source was referring to the need for more medical personnel thanks to the Affordable Care Act. With the insurance market growing, it is expected that the number of health visits will increase as well. At the same time, many argue that Obamacare will eventually reduce the number of hospital and emergency room visits, thanks to comprehensive preventative care, saving money and reducing medical problems in the long run. But, in the meantime, it is likely that job opportunities for nurses, and indeed all of those medical professions listed by U.S. News, will grow.