Medical professionals play a major role in today’s society. And it’s not just about improving and saving lives – the healthcare industry makes up a significant part of the United States economy. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Americans spend about $13,000 per person per year for healthcare. This spending makes up more than 18% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (which was roughly $25.46 trillion in 2022).
And it takes a lot of people working together to provide this medical care. Much of this help comes from allied healthcare workers. These are professionals that don’t have a formal medical degree (or equivalent), but provide a wide array of assessment, diagnostic, and medical support services to patients.
Because of the prevalence of allied health workers in the medical industry, they are among the first to notice any changes to how patients get treated and billed. Here are some interesting and notable changes coming in 2024 that will directly affect many workers in the allied healthcare field.
Change #1: Spanish Language Option for Dental Assistant Credentialing Exams
The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) administers several assessments that dental assistants often take to obtain certification or licensure in relevant states. One exam in particular is the Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) exam. This tests an individual’s knowledge in radiation safety and infection control measures.
This test has been previously only offered in English, but starting in January 2024, it will also be available in Spanish. The Spanish RHS exam is only the beginning of more DANB exams to be translated into Spanish. For example, later in 2024, the Infection Control (ICE) exam should be available in Spanish.
Change #2: ICD-10-CM Code Updates
CMS announced hundreds of new diagnosis codes for the 2024 fiscal year that medical billers can expect to encounter. Many of these changes relate to external causes of morbidity, especially relating to foreign objects that enter the body through a natural orifice, like nose or mouth. These new codes include things like button batteries, glass objects, knives, food, and plastic toys.
There are also new codes dealing with certain diseases and illnesses relating to connective tissues and the musculoskeletal system, as well as the eyes. Codes related to the coronavirus have also been changed through the consolidation of some codes into specific categories.
Change #3: No More Surprise Billing for Ambulance Trips in California
In October 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that would end surprise medical bills for ambulance rides that are the result of calling 9-1-1. The law, AB 716, goes into effect on January 1, 2024 and would stop California health insurance companies from charging higher out-of-network rates when a patient has an emergency ambulance ride.
The purpose of this law is to avoid individuals from suffering from a medical emergency, but hesitate to call an ambulance because they’re afraid they’ll be charged more than they expect. Assuming this law has its desired effect, paramedics and EMTs might see an increase in calls and ambulance stations may need to hire more workers.
Change #4: New EMT and Paramedic Exams
Aspiring paramedics and EMTs need to meet specific training requirements as well as pass a national exam administered through the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT). Until 2024, this certification process included a psychomotor examination. Starting July 1, 2024, the NREMT will offer new Paramedic and AEMT (Advanced EMT) exams that incorporate the requirements of the psychomotor exam. This should be a welcome change to prospective EMT and paramedic who now have to pass just one exam given on one date.
Change #5: Higher Minimum Wage for Healthcare Workers in California
California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed into law SB 525. This bill would raise the minimum wage covered employers must offer to their healthcare workers. These changes would apply incrementally, with gradual minimum wage increases until it reaches $25 per hour. The type of employer will decide when these increases would occur.
For instance, a covered healthcare facility with 10,000 or more full-time employees would have to pay at least $23 per hour to eligible healthcare workers starting June 1, 2024. And by June 1, 2026, this minimum wage shall be $25 per hour, with inflation adjustments being made each year from that point forward.
Change #6: Increased Education Requirements to Become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
The Academic of Nutrition and Dietetics is about to implement new requirements to become a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). The exact requirements depend on the state in which an individual wants to practice. But at a minimum, becoming an RDN will require a person to pass the national exam for RDNs, complete at least 1,000 hours of supervised training, and earn a degree from an accredited dietetic program.
It’s this latter requirement that will be adjusted in 2024. Effective January 1, 2024, an RDN must earn at least a master’s degree before they can sit for the RDN exam. Until this change goes into effect, a bachelor’s degree is usually the minimum degree needed.
One thing to keep in mind is that once this change goes into effect, it will only apply to future RDNs. In other words, existing RDNs won’t have to go back to school and earn a master’s degree.
Change #7: A New Exam Format for Physical Therapists and Physical Therapist Assistants
A person wishing to become a licensed physical therapist (PT) or physical therapist assistant (PTA) must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). This exam is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). Beginning in 2024, the NPTE will have a new format.
The time allotted for the exam will remain unchanged, although the total number of questions will decrease. However, the exam will replace some of the multiple choice questions with up to 40 scenario-based questions. These questions will use a hypothetical patient scenario to assess the test taker’s knowledge.
Change #8: Colorado Veterinary Technicians Must Now Register
In 2022 Colorado passed a law that would officially recognize the veterinary technician (VT) profession by requiring VTs to register with the state. Specifically, VTs will obtain their credentials from the Colorado Association of Certified Veterinary Technicians (CACVT). Next, they would submit a registration application to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, Division of Professionals and Occupations (DPO) and pay a fee. This registration requirement with the DPO will be enforced starting January 1, 2024.