The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, receives a lot of attention in relation to how it affects individuals. This law requires most Americans to obtain healthcare coverage, either through employment or through a private or network plan. While the focus is on the individual, other entities are affected as well. How does Obamacare affect doctors? This new U.S. law affects a variety of people and businesses and in several ways. Consumers are asking questions about whether they can keep their current doctors. Some doctors wonder what this means to their patient load, income, and the overall health of their practice. It's important to break down the various ways the law affects doctors and patients alike.
In many instances, the Affordable Care Act may help doctors. Millions of Americans were without health insurance prior to passage of the ACA. The the new law enables individuals to get the coverage they need to actually receive healthcare. Most doctors want patients to be seen. This increases the number of people who are likely to seek medical care when they need it. Prior to the law's passage, many men, women, and children went without care because they could not afford it.
As a result, the passage of Obamacare means doctors are likely to experience an increase in the number of patients they see. Customer counts, so to speak, are likely to rise. It's also important to note that only a few doctors are associated with some of the limited networks available through the new law. This could lead to a shortage of doctors available to some patients and too many patients for the doctors in such networks.
According to the National Physicians Alliance, a few key factors will play a role in patient care now that Obamacare is in place. Doctors and patients are affected in these ways:
Some reports indicated that doctors would see lower payments once Obamacare went into effect. Yet this may not be the case. In some instances, Obamacare may lead to improved financials. One key reason for this is that Medicare pays a 10% bonus for primary care services and a 10% bonus to general surgeons in areas with a shortage.
Doctors with small practices can also save money, like most other businesses, by shopping for insurance for their employees through the health insurance marketplace, potentially decreasing costs. The marketplace allows small practices to join together to shop for such coverage.
Many hospitals began purchasing smaller doctor practices prior to Obamacare going into effect. This was because the new law endorses Accountable Care Organizations, which bring together smaller practices. Many solo practices have worked to move towards larger ones, mainly because the cost of implementing policies and procedures under the new law is burdensome. This includes increasing regulations, the use of new electronic health records and shifting referral patterns.
Some doctors believe this is bad for business, citing a similar trend toward hospitals buying out doctors that occurred in the 1990s. Doctors working as employees of hospitals are likely to work less, leading to decreases in wages due to lower productivity. This kind of consolidation is not always beneficial to the finances of doctors.
Obamacare will impact doctors in many other ways. What are the more general impacts of the new law?
In short, doctors will see patients more often, potentially spotting medical conditions sooner. New regulations and electronic records are likely to add to the cost of doing business. And, in some cases, doctors who fail to provide adequate care may see limitations in Medicare and Medicaid payments.
Nurses are also likely to see an impact from Obamacare. The American Nursing Association, and many of its members, believe that access to high-quality healthcare is something that more people need. From that standpoint, nurses will now see more patients with coverage. That could mean the following:
To further explore this topic, it is important to look at the effect of the new law on hospitals. One key way this law impacts hospitals is by withholding Medicare payments from hospitals that see too many patients returning within 30 days of discharge for specific ailments, such as pneumonia and heart attacks. Hospitals must ensure that patients are healthy enough to go home, and must also improve post-surgical treatment and services to decrease the likelihood that patients will need to return. This may mean that hospitals will need to assign outpatient nurses to ensure patients are following doctor's orders even after discharge.
There's no doubt that quality of care can increase in hospital settings when there's a risk of losing funding. In 2015, reimbursement rates will be cut by a full percent to hospitals that have high infection rates.
Numerous changes will occur behind the scenes, including new training and potentially new mergers to minimize costs and streamline efficiency. Hospitals may also see a decrease in the number of patients who arrive to receive treatment without any method of payment. That's because more people will have coverage.
The requirement to obtain healthcare makes a big difference in the way people live their lives. While it is an added expense, it may also mean better levels of care from doctors and hospitals. At the same time, it means significant changes for doctors, some of which could be too costly for them to keep private practices open. Though salaries may be impacted, some doctors are happy to see plans in place that ensure patients are getting the medical care they need for early diagnosis and long-term treatment.
Americans who need a plan are able to obtain health insurance through independent insurance agents on the Trusted Choice® network. These quality agents are available to provide answers to questions and guidance for all people who need to seek out coverage that is in compliance with the law. Because these agents can work closely with individuals to ensure that they have the most recent updates and access, Trusted Choice agents are the ideal choice for most Americans searching for coverage. These agents do not work for the government or for insurance companies. They work for individuals. Call a Trusted Choice member today to learn more about the policies and options available to fit your needs.