Health Care Reform

The State of Health Care in America

The large variety of health care systems in place across the world demonstrates that there are several different pathways that a country can take when thinking about health care reform. In the United States, “health care reform” is a term that has been on the tip of nearly every person’s tongue over the last few years, as many patients, professionals, and government leaders discuss questions of citizens’ right to health care, access to and fairness of coverage, sustainability of plans, quality of care, and the government’s interest in improving the system.

With its mixed availability of public and private coverage, the U.S. has the most expensive health care system in the world, costing more per person than anywhere else. Despite this large investment, the U.S. ranks close to last in the quality of health care that it delivers, compared to all other developed nations.

It is no surprise, then, that the topic of health reform is on the minds of policymakers and patients as they attempt to find a solution to the problems that have riddled the system for the past few decades. Finding this solution is very important not only for patients and families, but also for the professionals working in the health care industry, and can have a big impact on the future of health care in our nation.

Health Care Reform and The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Most recently, health reform has taken a new step in an attempt to provide Americans with better care. On March 23, 2010, the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, marking a historic movement to improve the state of health care in the United States.

This plan, set to unfold completely by 2014, includes many changes and adjustments to the current system, like expanded and extended coverage for young adults, tax credits for plans offered by small businesses and the self-employed, expanded coverage for Medicaid, prohibiting the denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, and more. But those in opposition to this new law have taken their issues to the Supreme Court, where challenges to the upend law will begin in March 2012.

Despite the ongoing political debates about the law’s effectiveness, some changes that have already been implemented have changed the lives of many Americans.

For supporters of the new step in health care reform, the benefits of this new law will:

  • Hold insurance companies accountable to keep premiums down and prevent denials of care and coverage, including for pre-existing conditions.
  • Reduce premiums and out-of-pocket costs to make health insurance affordable for middle class families and small businesses with one of largest tax cuts for health care in history.
  • Rein in the worst excesses and abuses of the insurance industry with some of the toughest consumer protections the U.S. has ever known.
  • Strengthen Medicare benefits with lower prescription drug costs for those in the ‘donut hole,’ chronic care, free preventive care, and nearly a decade more of solvency for Medicare.
  • Provide the security of knowing that if a patient loses their job, changes their job, or starts a new business, they’ll always be able to purchase quality, affordable care in a new competitive health insurance market that keeps costs down.
  • Improve the fiscal health of the U.S. by reducing its deficit by more than $100 billion over the next decade, and more than $1 trillion in the decade after that.

Health Care Reform for Physicians and Health Care Professionals

Health care reform is proving to make a big impact not only on patients, but on physicians and medical professionals as well. With big changes taking place in the legislation behind the health care system, even bigger changes will also take place on the business side of health care.

While the majority of the public may support or benefit from the new sanctions outlined in the bill, the majority of health care professionals and physician believe that this will not be of benefit to them in the long-term.

Many physicians are voicing their concerns over the long-term effects of the bill, citing these reasons as the main drivers of their apprehension:

  • The likelihood of overwhelmed emergency rooms and increased wait times for primary care appointments due to newly insured patients
  • Increased burdens on physician practices through the implementation of new processes and technologies
  • Little relief in operating costs for private practice physicians
  • A decline in traditional payment methods, including possibly lower profits for physicians

Due to these concerns, many smaller, private practices are selling out to larger hospital systems, deciding to create their own accountable care organizations (ACO), or seeking employment from larger health organizations for fear that they will not be able to sustain their practice under the new terms of the health care reform bill.

A greater fear stemming from all of this upheaval in the private sector is the possible decrease in and shortage of prospective physicians and medical professionals – a serious concern that has the potential to affect health care in a big way in the future.

Those that support the new legislation believe that more patient coverage and reimbursements will eventually yield more paying customers for health care providers, but with the condition of the economy and state budgets dwindling, some fear that this may not come to fruition in the near future.

Health Care Reform – Still a Topic of Debate

Though the new health care reform bill has been passed and its changes will continue to be implemented throughout the upcoming years, Americans have certainly not seen the end of the developments in health reform in this country.

Those that oppose the new changes will fight to have their voice heard and have alternative processes put into place, while those that support the newest health care reform bill will fight to continue to provide the best patient care under the conditions of the legislation.

No matter which side physicians or patients support, the current and future changes to health care will make a big impact on many lives and on the health care system as a whole in America.