Posts Tagged - ‘doctors’

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Newly Insured May Visit Nurses, Instead of Doctors

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Image: Debs under CC 3.0

Health insurance reform will increase the number of patients receiving medical care. It will only exacerbate the shortage of primary care physicians. The law funds many nurse-managed clinics, especially in rural areas.

28 states are considering laws that would allow nurse practitioners with advanced degrees to practice and prescribe medicine. Nurses say that they are qualified to treat most minor and moderate conditions at a lower cost (while giving referrals when appropriate), while spending more time with patients. Nurse practitioners are usually reimbursed by health insurance plans at 85% of the rate doctors get.

You may actually end up calling your nurse “Dr.” soon, if he or she has a doctorate degree. That is one of the issues doctors’ associations are arguing about, believing that this attempt at cutting costs will confuse patients and put them in danger. However, studies have shown that patients have similar health outcomes.

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Malpractice Worries Make Health Insurance Plans More Expensive

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Image: Patrick J. Lynch under CC 3.0

One of the primary causes of soaring health insurance plan costs is the sheer number of medical procedures and tests done. A recent study has found that up to one-fourth of those tests weren’t done for their actual merit or positive impact on the patient’s health. Instead, they were performed in order to decrease the chance of medical malpractice lawsuits.

Heart doctors are most likely to order invasive tests when other physicians in their area are doing so. Many believe that tort reform could help relieve their worries, and lead to more affordable health insurance because fewer unnecessary tests will be performed.

The healthcare reform bill takes a small step towards that end: it includes funding for states to develop pilot programs that explore alternatives to lawsuits. Some doctor’s offices struggle to remain open due to the expense of malpractice insurance!

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More Medical Care Isn’t Always Better

Monday, April 12th, 2010

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When it comes to holding down health insurance plan costs, it is generally agreed on that a main factor is the sheer amount of utilization of medical care. Innovations in technology have resulted in significant improvements in life expectancy, but many believe that there are times when health care services are overused.

Obviously, nobody wants to forgo screenings or treatment when it’s necessary. However, there are some times when they can do more harm than good. For example, the risk of radiation from repeated colonoscopies, mammograms and CT scans can add up, while doing relatively little to catch cancer early in most patients under a certain age. Some believe that lifetime exposure can even increase a person’s risk of cancer!

Why is medical care often overused? Patients often demand it, and doctors may take the path of least resistance. Physicians may also be worried about being sued for medical malpractice in the worst-case scenario; doctors are more likely to be sued if they are perceived to not have done enough. Also, doctors tend to be paid on a per-procedure basis, giving them an incentive to perform more tests and procedures. No matter what, the cost is paid for by your health insurer, and passed onto you through more expensive health insurance premiums.

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FAQ: Doctor Visit Waits Under Healthcare Reform

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
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How Would Doctors Lower Health Insurance Costs?

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

(Image: Seattle Municipal Archives under CC 3.0)

Whether or not healthcare reform ends up reducing health insurance costs, it is clear that it will not do so alone. Medical expenses make up one-sixth of the U.S. GDP. Doctors are on the front lines of this predicament; so what are their suggestions?

  • Some believe that health savings accounts (HSA plans) should be more prevalent; similar to auto insurance, they mainly insure catastrophes instead of routine care. However, the bill goes further in the other direction.
  • The specter of medical malpractice lawsuits hangs over many doctors, causing them to order unnecessary tests. Despite receiving little notice, there is a provision in the health insurance reform bill that encourages states to develop alternatives. It’s not the tort reform some have called for, but it’s a start.
  • Paying attention to the prevention of conditions before they get worse (and more expensive to treat): nipping childhood obesity in the bud before those children grow up to become obese adults with health problems, and counseling on nutrition.
  • Educating patients on the downsides of overtreatment, whether they are healthy or near the end of their life
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