The Affordable Care Act now makes it possible for more people to invest in health insurance and get the medical services they need. As beneficial as this availability may be for the previously uninsured, the ACA also has created new challenges for the healthcare market.
While the debate about how the ACA will directly affect patients and hospitals in the years to come, experts theorize that some of those challenges are already being experienced now. These five challenges could impact the quality of medical care that people in the U.S. will receive in the future.
1) More Services with Less Cash
With more people having insurance and being able to go to the doctor, medical facilities will have to figure out how to stay in operation with less money in their budgets. The ACA has allowed many people to become eligible for government-backed insurance. These policies have low reimbursement rates, resulting in clinics and hospitals having less cash with which to operate.
Along with providing an adequate amount of services, these facilities also must be able to pay their utility bills and switch to the green energy now becoming standard in this industry. This dilemma could result in patients being given less than ideal care and hospitals having to go out of business.
2) More Patients and Fewer Doctors
The anticipated budget strains will also impact the number of doctors that will be available for the growing number of patients. Many facilities will not be able to hire enough doctors to meet the demand.
Despite having insurance, patients may not be able to receive the care they want and need. They may have to wait weeks or months for routine care like:
- Physical examinations
- Annual blood work
- Pap smears or mammograms
- Colon scopes and other cancer diagnostics
They also may have to wait months, if not a year or longer for surgical care and rehabilitation services.
3) Increased Security Demands
The growing number of patients in hospitals and medical clinics will create a new demand for increased security. Along with paying utility bills, hiring doctors and providing good care, these places also will have to budget money to hire adequate security staff.
If a hospital or clinic does not have enough security on hand, both the staff and patients could face increased safety risks. These risks could also result in liability issues for a hospital that could further strain its budget.
4) Hiring Strains for Support Staff
As more people seek medical care, the hospitals and clinics that take them on as patients will need to hire more support staff. However, hiring janitors, secretaries, and other employees requires that these locations free up cash in their already strained budgets.
In fact, support staff members are critical to how well patients are checked in and receive their treatments during their stay. If a facility cannot afford to hire the workers it needs for patient safety and care, it may face having to close.
5) Meeting Cultural Needs of Patients
People who take advantage of the ACA presumably will come from all walks of life. A hospital must be able to meet people's cultural needs along with providing good care during their stays.
With the increased number of patients, however, a facility may face challenges in being able to accomplish this goal satisfactorily. It will need to recruit and retain staff who is empathetic to the various cultural practices of the area and also can identify and satisfy lesser known cultural needs that perhaps are not as prevalent in that part of the country.
The Affordable Health Care Act can be very beneficial to people who have never before had insurance. However, this new law is expected to create new challenges for hospitals and medical clinics everywhere. These five dilemmas could cause these facilities to go out of business or compromise the level of patient care.