America’s Doctor Shortage Only Worsened by Obamacare

Obamacare was drafted so that the millions of Americans who were either uninsurable or who couldn’t afford health insurance could finally get the coverage they so desired, and that they needed to improve and maintain good health and a better quality of life. However, with close to 30 million Americans now able to access healthcare, those so-fiercely-fought-for policies may not be worth much, as there won’t be enough doctors to provide the promised care.

A Shortage of Physicians

Whether you want to believe it or not, Obamacare has set America up for a very sticky predicament: A doctor shortage. Already, America is suffering from a shortage of healthcare providers. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States is currently short 20,000 doctors, and this shortage will only be exacerbated with the influx of millions of new patients nationwide. In fact, this number is expected to quintuple over the next decade, thanks to the aging population. Nearly half of the 800,000-plus doctors in the United States are over the age of 50, and consequently, many of them are looking to retire in the near future.

The implementation of Obamacare come 2014 is further thinning out the healthcare workforce. Because so many doctors don’t want to go through all the red tape, the paperwork and the overall hassle of dealing with even more insurance rules and regulations, the Physicians Foundation is expecting more doctors than ever before to retire early. In fact, a recent survey of 13,000 physicians indicated that 60% of healthcare practitioners would retire today if they could – up from 40% before the Affordable Care Act passed.

To further complicate the predicament our healthcare infrastructure is facing, of those doctors who won’t, or can’t, retire out of frustration, many of them will become much more choosy about who they’ll see. So many physicians have made it clear that they’re going to limit the number of Medicaid patients they’ll take, thanks to the program’s almost non-existent reimbursement rates (which are about 60% of what private insurance companies will pay). While the number of doctors taking Medicaid patients nationwide isn’t startlingly low (69% accepted new Medicaid patients in 2011), the numbers do vary greatly from state-to-state. In Florida, only 59% of doctors agree to accept new Medicaid patients, while in Texas, 68% limit or flat-out refuse to take new Medicaid patients. This doesn’t have to do so much with the fact that these doctors don’t want to deal with the hassle of even more paperwork (though that’s part of it), but more because the cost to treat a Medicaid patient is so much higher than what the government will pay for that treatment. Once millions more Americans enter the Medicaid program, this problem will only grow worse – especially as states begin to spend more money on Medicaid and continue to not see a return on their investment.

To make matters worse, it’s not just Medicaid patients who will have limited access to healthcare providers – people who purchase healthcare through the Obamacare exchanges will be affected as well. In California, they’re finding that even exchange plans from companies as big as Blue Shield and Anthem are only being accepted by one-third of the physician population; several centers and doctors will only accept one plan from the exchange; and the more prestigious medical centers won’t take anyone with a plan purchased through the exchange. In other states, even coverage from their largest health insurers—if purchased through the exchange—won’t be accepted by anyone but one major medical center, leaving thousands of patients without doctors, and hundreds of doctors without patients.

What This Means

As regular care from doctors and physicians becomes nearly impossible for Medicaid patients and exchange enrollees to receive, ERs – which are already in a state of crisis, with 650 shut down in just the past two decades – will begin to be flooded with patients. Because of this, Obamacare is predicted to lead to catastrophic overcrowding. Massachusetts is a perfect example of the chaos that increased ER utilization will cause.

When Massachusetts implemented a healthcare system eerily similar to Obamacare back in 2006, demand went so far up that not only did ER use increase by as much as 4% in each of the Bay State’s hospitals, but just recently, the state has even begun to consider letting nurses and assistants assume some of the functions normally taken care of by doctors and doctors only. However, even if RNs and assistants could handle some of the less complex cases, once Obamacare goes nationwide on January 1, matters will only get worse – much worse.

The goal of Obamacare was to provide every American the chance at better health through easy access to medical care – but so far, it’s only looking like it will make medical care harder to get—not only for Medicaid and exchange patients, but for everyone. And, because healthcare providers will be trying to get people in and out as quickly as possible, the care offered won’t be near the quality of care provided during the good old days of private insurance and, well, choice.

You Have Not Just One Option – But Several

The cost of health insurance is going up and the quality of healthcare is going down – there’s not doubt about that. However, there are steps you can take to ensure you aren’t just another “number” to your physician. For starters, establish a relationship with your doctor. By doing so, your doctor will hopefully not only try to get you in as soon as possible, but they will take their time to provide you with the best treatment possible, because they care about you. If you don’t already have a doctor established, you can always look into a concierge medicine clinic. When you join these clinics, you pay a “subscription” to see the doctor – kind of like health insurance, but it goes to the doctor directly, and it costs less than typical health coverage. These clinics are great because not only do you have access to healthcare 24/7, but, because these doctors see far fewer patients than traditional insurance-based clinics, you will receive higher quality care. The only problem with opting for a concierge clinic is that the subscription cannot be paid for with an HSA – however, any other out of pocket medical expenses can be.

Sometimes, though, a traditional health insurance plan can offer the stability that so many Americans crave – especially in uncertain times such as these. We here at ColoHealth understand this, and we are here to help you find the best insurance plan for you – a plan that will give you access to the quality of healthcare you need, deserve and can afford. We make it our mission to present you with the most cost effective options, and offer expert advice at no extra cost to you. We don’t want you to be constrained by your coverage either, which is why we take into consideration your wants, needs, location, budget—everything that factors into the equation—and we find the plan that will fall in line with everything you could possibly want from your healthcare provider. In addition, we do an Annual Comprehensive Policy Review every year in order to make sure that the plan we help you find and enroll in remains the best coverage for you. Every month, we send out a Health and Wealth Report, which regularly shares information on how you can save money on eyeglasses, dental care, prescription drugs and other health expenses. When you choose to work with us, you will see that our job never ends when it comes to assisting you. Our ultimate goal is that, once Obamacare does become official in 2014, you won’t even feel its effects.

For help finding the best coverage for you and your family, without any hassle or stress, check out our available plans online.

  Date posted: Wednesday, July 17th, 2013
Category: Health Care Reform

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