Tapping into Health Reform Opportunities

By Jim Toole, SOA Board Member

JimToole Risk is opportunity. You’ve probably seen it a hundred times over the last year and never really thought about it. I mean, it’s for the other guy, right? The people who NEED actuaries?

Well, after 100 years of discussion, the United States has finally passed comprehensive health reform, and health actuaries are staring risk and opportunity squarely in the face. A few of us worked diligently to keep abreast of the torturous legislative process, but most of us have been too busy just trying to keep up with our daily work to do a good job of it. Where do things stand for the health discipline? In the words of the immortal Kenny Rogers, is it time to hold ‘em or fold ’em?

The good news is the SOA, as part of its strategic initiatives, has been assessing both the opportunities for health actuaries in the broader healthcare industry and how well our skill sets match the needs. After a series of interviews with Health Section members, chief health actuaries, and in-depth market research analysis, it is clear that an actuary’s skill set qualifies us for diverse roles in the broader healthcare industry. Health industry executives believe that there will be a shortage of qualified candidates for healthcare forecasting and analytics positions over the next five years.

Competition is tight for these roles, and perceptions of actuaries can hinder our prospects. However, our research showed that employers who were presented with actuarial resumes without being told that the candidates were actuaries were favorably impressed. In addition, when healthcare executives were introduced to the concept of a professional who is both an actuary and a health care expert, they were especially interested in that type of candidate for their forecasting and analytics role.

Coming out of the research, a strong health actuarial value proposition emerged:

  • Actuaries have a neutral and objective voice.
  • Actuaries combine strong business, modeling and analytic skills with an industry that will continue to be highly data driven.
  • The health actuary is an unknown brand outside of insurance companies (and consulting firms), that has great value and should be strengthened in the broader healthcare industry.

A market research summary report to membership has just been posted to the Health Section’s page on the SOA website. A webcast has been scheduled for May 25 to present draft results to membership and obtain feedback from participants. The webcast is free, and we encourage anyone who is interested in getting an understanding of the future opportunities for actuaries in the health industry to participate. Click here to register for the webcast!

The market research results will be presented at the Health Section breakfast at the SOA Health 2010 meeting (June 28–30 in Orlando); other sessions at the Health meeting will leverage the results of the research in the areas of career opportunities and potential new directions in SOA research.

The Society of Actuaries is committed to helping its members identify and obtain nontraditional roles in the broader healthcare industries. The road ahead will be bumpy, but opportunities that are new to the discipline are sure to grow and flourish for actuaries with vision and courage.

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