Healthcare law becomes more complex with each passing of major legislation on the federal and state levels. Healthcare paralegal jobs are on the increase as a result of the demand for legal specialists with familiarity in healthcare laws. Students who are interested in working in the fields of law and healthcare, but don’t want to or can’t invest the time in lengthy education in either field, can opt to earn their paralegal certificate or associate’s degree, then earn a certificate in healthcare law. The same is true for working paralegals who want to specialize in healthcare law and improve their career outlook.
What’s a Healthcare Law Paralegal?
A healthcare law paralegal is a paralegal that’s versed in healthcare laws, malpractice, insurance claims, nursing home negligence, personal injury and more. The healthcare paralegal can be someone with extensive experience working in a law firm handling medical claims, has earned their healthcare paralegal certificate, or worked as a healthcare professional and has shifted into the role of a paralegal with practical healthcare and medical experience.
Students who don’t have experience working in the medical field, and are interested in becoming a healthcare paralegal, are best served by going to school for traditional paralegal studies, then taking coursework to earn a healthcare paralegal certificate. Some paralegal programs offer coursework in healthcare law, but the amount of schooling may not be sufficient to find employment as a healthcare paralegal. A certificate program provides a focused education in healthcare law that’s not always available in a traditional paralegal program.
Nurses who have experience working in the healthcare industry are well-positioned to become a healthcare law paralegal. Their experience handling patients, reading medical records, liaising with physicians, and dealing with insurance companies are skills that are in demand by law firms and employers who are seeking paralegals with medical experience. A nurse or similar healthcare professional who wants to shift careers can benefit from earning their paralegal certificate or degree in order to become a healthcare law paralegal.
What Does a Healthcare Law Paralegal Do?
The job duties and responsibilities of a healthcare paralegal depends on education and experience. A senior healthcare paralegal has more responsibilities than a junior healthcare paralegal, but both have the duty of reviewing lawsuit documents and preparing legal paperwork under the supervision of an attorney. The core duties of a healthcare paralegal is the same as a traditional paralegal, but the healthcare paralegal also applies their medical knowledge and understanding of medical laws to their duties. The healthcare paralegal has duties that include:
- Reviewing medical records
- Working familiarity with HIPAA,
- Understands how Medicare and Medicaid function
- Understands state and federal medical laws
- Familiarity with the healthcare process
- Knowledge of how insurance claims are processed
- Helps prepare depositions
A healthcare paralegal doesn’t always work for a law firm. The role is in demand among non-law firm employers such as insurance companies and medical conglomerates. In non-law firm settings, a healthcare paralegal may also act as a liaison between doctor and patient, help with on-site investigations of potential violations, keeps watch for lawsuit claims against the employer and makes sure that legal liabilities are few and far between. All of these details are found in most healthcare law paralegal job descriptions, but employers can and do put in experience requirements for the position they’re seeking to fill.
How Much Does a Healthcare Law Paralegal Make?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average paralegal salary is $51,740 per year. There is no direct data for a healthcare paralegal salary from the BLS, but the specialized nature of the role and demand for qualified professionals helps improve the average salary. The average salary listed by the BLS represents the median salary for the paralegal profession as a whole. A healthcare paralegal with corresponding education and little experience can expect to make less than the average salary in the beginning of their career, but gain experience as they put their education to work. As the healthcare paralegal progresses in their career, they gain valuable experience that helps increase their value to an employer.
Large aging populations means more people require healthcare to stay healthy. That fact unfortunately also increases the potential for mistakes made by healthcare workers. That means more healthcare paralegals are going to be needed in law firms and private employers. Law firms that focus on medical lawsuits benefit greatly from having qualified healthcare paralegals on staff while private employers benefit from having paralegals with legal-medical training to prevent lawsuits. Salaries are more likely to be higher for the healthcare law paralegal in order to attract qualified individuals to the role.