Image: a.drian under CC 3.0
Many are concerned that there will be extremely long waits for care, now that the new health care bill is the law of the land. Even supporters of healthcare reform acknowledge that many people will experience longer waits to visit a primary care doctor. However, they disagree on the extent of the impact. What’s the truth? Read this FAQ for more information.
- Will it take longer to see a doctor? There is no denying that an increase in the number of patients will lead to longer wait times. By 2019, over 30 million previously uninsured Americans will have access to affordable health insurance. Most of those people weren’t seeing physicians before, so the wait will inevitably increase.
- Are there any other reasons for the longer wait times? This situation has been going on before health insurance reform was a twinkle in the Obama administration’s eye. For years, there has been a shortage of primary care doctors. Many medical school graduates choose more lucrative specialties, instead. Granted, reform will probably exacerbate the predicted shortage of 40,000 by 2020.
- Who will be affected most? Those who already have their own doctor will most likely see little impact. You might have to wait a day or two longer for non-emergency visits. However, the impact is more severe for people with a new health insurance plan looking for a doctor for the first time. Many internal medicine and family doctors may refuse to accept new patients. The small percentage of the uninsured with already-established relationships with a doctor will be better off.
- What does the legislation do about the waiting lines? Many feel that the bill’s provisions to reduce its impact on wait times are insufficient. Med school students who choose primary care will receive special student loan packages that are less stringent about repayment. It will also increase reimbursement rates for Medicaid temporarily, because the public health insurance program for the poor is often rejected by doctors that find it impossible to break even on their practice with the low rates.
- What else can be done? Many health care experts promote the increased training of nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who are qualified to handle minor to moderate conditions. They can help reduce the load for doctors, and enter the workforce in a shorter period of time.