MODESTO — Medical-related professions have continued to grow, despite the Northern San Joaquin Valley's prolonged recession.
MedAmerica Billing Services Inc. is among Modesto's largest private employers, with more than 600 local staff members. It also has about 200 employees in Ontario and Green Valley, Ariz.
The company plans to further expand its Modesto operations. It already handles billing duties for about 105 medical practices in eight states. That includes 4.3 million patients with more than $1.7 billion in physician charges per year.
MedAmerica's president, James V. Proffitt III, said a key to his company's success "is constant focus on staff development in basics and beyond."
The Modesto Chamber of Commerce named MedAmerica its Member of the Year for 2012, and the company just celebrated its 20th anniversary in Modesto.
Proffitt, who has led the company for more than 13 years, answered some questions for The Bee about doing business in Modesto and the medical industry.
Q: Why have health care companies such as yours been able to expand in this difficult economy?
A: In general, the demand for physician services continues to rise regardless of the economy. Specifically, MedAmerica utilized technology to enable us to take on more business volume, while at the same time lowering our unit cost (improved efficiency) to remain competitive.
I'm particularly proud of this course of action because we preserved local jobs and we've been able to add 100-plus jobs over the past couple of years.
Q: With the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) being implemented soon, what will be the biggest challenge or opportunity for companies such as yours?
A: I see it as an opportunity in that more individuals will have insurance and assistance to pay their medical bills. The challenge will be if the government will be able to afford the assistance as we move forward.
Q: What have been some of the pros and cons of basing your medical billing service in Modesto?
A: The roots of the company go back 38 years right here in Modesto, so it's been a great community to grow the business. Another aspect is the technology advances in health care enable us to service client sites anywhere in the USA. Geographic location of the business is not a barrier.
Q: How difficult is it to find and keep qualified employees in Stanislaus County?
A: MedAmerica offers a lot of entry-level positions, plus position training, so adding employees has never been a problem. I believe our positive family culture encourages long-term employment. Many employees have been with our company for more than 10 years.
Q: What advice do you have for other companies considering starting a business here?
A: Local workers are great! I would advise an investment in training, which would equal a positive return for any company.
Q: What could Stanislaus County's government agencies do to attract more businesses?
A: Work to improve the quality of life for all county residents. Modesto and the surrounding area have a lot to offer. The more the residents prosper, the better the business environment for all.
Q: About 15 percent of Stanislaus' work force is unemployed. What can job hunters do to improve their chances of getting hired?
A: For MedAmerica, trade schools in billing and-or coding are helpful. Typing skills are a must for any job with a keyboard. Don't forget attitude. Employers want good attitudes. We can train for skill.
Q: Can you share a "fun fact" about medical bills that would surprise people?
A: What I hear most that surprises people is they are not aware that the physicians we bill for do not work for the hospital.
Rather, they are independent physician groups that contract with the hospitals to provide physician services in the emergency room. The end result is typically there are two bills one for the hospital and one for the doctor for a visit to the ER.
Q: Does your company have job openings in Modesto, and how can people apply?
A: We continue to have openings with our growth. Applications can be filled out at our main office in Modesto. In the near future, we will have an online application process established on our website, www.medamericabilling. com, with job listings as well.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2196.