Things to Know at the Launch of Obamacare

Julie Shenkman
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The Affordable Care Act has healthcare professionals scrambling to update their files and upgrade to new equipment. Often referred to as Obamacare, the healthcare law will affect doctors, nurses, medical practice managers, medical device manufacturers, and many other people in the industry. Now that the Obamacare insurance exchange is open, the law is a reality for millions of medical professionals. These are just some of the things you need to know going into 2014.

One of the most important things to know about the new healthcare law is how it will affect reimbursement rates from insurers. Medicare already pays up to 30 percent less for eligible services than most private insurance plans, so there is some concern about how many people will be taking part in plans available through state health exchanges. Some employers have already decided it will be easier to drop their employee health plans and let employees buy affordable coverage through the exchanges, which could affect your practice’s reimbursement rates. Lower physician incomes could have a major impact on the healthcare field.

The healthcare law also forces medical professionals to convert their files into electronic health records. Many practices already use electronic records, but this mandate is a real burden for small medical practices. A practice with one or two physicians might not have the financial resources to purchase new computers, pay a technology company to install EMR software, or train staff members to use new programs. Starting in 2015, providers will be penalized if they do not use electronic health records, so this represents another financial burden for medical professionals. The penalties will likely be in the form of even lower Medicare reimbursement rates.

Although it is not clear how physicians will fare as these changes take place, nurses and physician assistants should have more opportunities to practice medicine. Some organizations are predicting a physician shortage once the healthcare law really goes into effect, raising concerns about the accessibility of primary care. The country has a surplus of nurse practitioners and physician assistants, so these professionals can step in and take the place of physicians who leave the field. There is also talk of using nurse-managed health centers to give people access to the care they need. Colleges and universities are doing their part to ease the expected physician shortage by offering new physician assistant programs. The American Academy of Physician Assistants expects 10,000 new physician assistants to join the workforce by 2020.

The Affordable Care Act is completely changing the way medical professionals deliver preventive care and help people suffering with chronic illnesses. As the law launches, you must understand how it will affect reimbursement rates and affect how your practice handles protected health information. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners should also understand the increased number of opportunities available to them as the healthcare law goes into effect.


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