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Opportunities in Healthcare Companies

By Jonathan Berr, JobsintheMoney

Whatever's happening in the economy, healthcare companies continue to need accountants to keep business going and handle a maze of regulation.

Financial jobs are available at top insurers and benefits companies like Cigna, Kaiser Permanente and Wellpoint, along with hospital chains such as Health Management Associates, according to postings on job boards. The Healthcare Financial Management Association, a professional organization that offers certification in the field, lists more than 140 openings on its Web site.

For job seekers, having health care experience is helpful but not a necessity, according to Eric Kaulfuss, a talent director for Philadelphia-based Cigna. "We're not necessarily looking for people with only healthcare experience," he says, adding "it's difficult to find people, period," though corporate tax jobs are especially difficult to fill.

Experienced executives, particularly those with healthcare experience, can do well. According to a 2007 HFMA salary survey, people holding the title vice president of finance received an average cash compensation of $216,100, with an average bonus or profit sharing of $34,700. Compensation for chief financial officers was $196,200 with average bonuses or profit sharing of $36,400. Controllers had average cash compensation of $100,400 with incentive pay of about $8,200. Directors or managers of cash reimbursement got an average of $100,500 in cash compensation, with bonuses or profit sharing of $7,100. The survey also found managers of patient financial services earned $92,200, with incentive pay of $6,800.

Laying the Foundation

Those interested in advancing their careers in healthcare should get certified by the HFMA as a Certified Healthcare Financial Professional (CHFP). To apply for the designation, applicants must first be an organization member for five years and get a reference from an HFMA fellow or current elected chapter officer. Once obtaining the certification, you'll need to take continuing education classes to maintain your status.

Industry neophytes may face a steep learning curve. Healthcare providers face a myriad of financial challenges as government officials and businesses try to keep a lid on spiraling health costs. Companies must comply with government regulations, including the often Byzantine rules of Medicare. Moreover, the cost issue continues to be a political hot potato, especially during the current presidential election. In 2006, Moody's Investors Services noted that hospitals will face "significant" challenges in educating consumers and regulators on their pricing practices.

"As consumers take on greater cost burden for their care, interest is growing in how hospitals formulate their pricing structures and their justification of these structures," notes the HFMA. "Public indignation over the practice of charging uninsured patients the full list charges for services also has fueled demand that price information be more reasonable and easier to understand."

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