Beyond treating patients, hospitals, clinics, and health organizations need to make sure they allocate resources to provide high-quality patient care. They have to take into account future surpluses or shortages in a certain medical field to make informed decisions. And they often have to adjust their pricing of services to ensure individuals have continued health care coverage. To perform this crucial data analysis, organizations often turn to health care actuaries, professionals who are ready to spot potential risks, benefits, trends, and developments. Using their analytical skills, actuaries provide insights and recommendations for actions their organizations should take.
Health care actuaries have been a fundamental part of the health care landscape for decades, but the requirements and responsibilities of the role are evolving in response to new technological trends. Increased automation has enabled actuaries to perform certain data-gathering tasks faster and more efficiently. Actuaries can use machine learning to pull deeper insights from health data and uncover trends they may not have otherwise noticed.
An advanced degree, such as an online Master of Health Administration, provides future health care actuaries with advanced health administration knowledge and a firm understanding of how new technology and digital tools are impacting the health care landscape. Coursework in topics such as management, communications, health informatics, and health policy can be especially helpful.
What Is a Health Care Actuary?
Before diving into the role and responsibilities of a health care actuary, it is important to understand the general position of an actuary.
Actuaries interpret and analyze data and use their findings to identify and measure risks and benefits. That data could include anything from profit and revenue reports to forecasts about market trends and projections about changes to certain policies. For example, an actuary working for a corporation with many employees in their 60s might analyze risks that could develop if the company were to make changes to its retirement plan. An actuary working for an automotive insurance provider might analyze information about a new car brand’s safety standards and identify potential risks that should be taken into account when creating policies. Health care actuaries frequently work at health insurance providers but can also work for government agencies and medical providers. A health care actuary could interpret data about an uptick in flu diagnoses across the United States, for example, and make recommendations to his or her organization on how to address those risks. Health care actuaries could also identify financial risks and benefits of adding certain coverage to a health insurance policy.
The role of health care actuary requires a deep mathematical, statistical, and analytical skill set. The Society of Actuaries notes why these skills make actuaries highly sought-after professionals: “With [these skills], they help businesses grow and provide value to their customers. Actuaries help leaders make strategic decisions and consumers prepare for their future.”
Considering the new changes that are impacting the health system, the need for health care actuaries will likely increase. Health care actuaries will be needed to analyze how new government health policies will impact both individuals and insurance providers. Certain medicines may become more expensive even as new technologies make other health services more affordable, requiring health care actuaries to analyze and interpret the financial effect of both events. This will likely mean that the responsibilities for the role will expand as well, requiring that current and aspiring health care actuaries have the most advanced knowledge and skills to succeed.
How to Become a Health Care Actuary
The first step in becoming a health care actuary is earning a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as mathematics, statistics, economics, or actuary studies. Because the health care actuary role focuses on data, statistics, and analytics, these types of majors and coursework are beneficial. After earning a bachelor’s degree, aspiring health care actuaries typically attain professional certifications from the Society of Actuaries. Health care actuary positions can vary in their credentialing requirements.
Advanced degree programs in health administration, such as the one offered by Regis College, provide aspiring health care actuaries with a firm background in the complex health care landscape and strategies for evaluating future financial challenges related to health care. They can also equip aspiring health care actuaries with leadership and communication skills to help them advance in their careers.
Salary and Job Growth
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for actuaries was $102,880 as of May 2018. A health care actuary who possesses a wide range of skills is likely to earn a higher salary. For example, PayScale notes that actuaries with skills in pricing, financial modeling, and SAS are paid more than the national average. Actuaries who work in the Pacific Northwest, as well as in major cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York, also earn higher-than-average salaries.
The BLS forecasts actuary employment to increase by 20% between 2018 and 2028, about four times as fast as the average for all occupations. The need to analyze increasing amounts of medical data and to assess changes in health care regulations could help drive growth in demand for actuaries.
Even health care actuaries who hold the necessary certifications and skills could benefit from an advanced degree to set them apart. Regis College’s online Master of Health Administration program offers aspiring health care actuaries the opportunity to develop a comprehensive understanding of the health care landscape that can help them advance in their careers and take on leadership roles. Discover more about Regis College’s program today.