“So, what do you think of The Affordable Care Act?”
I get asked that question quite a bit. Granted, most people who ask me already have their own opinions (they don’t like “Obamacare” or the President and they’re just itching to let me know that!). But more people are really unsure of what is going to happen with their health insurance, especially in the uncertain Pittsburgh marketplace.
The answer, to be truthful, is, “I don’t know what I think yet.”
The ACA should provide health insurance to a lot of people who currently can’t afford or choose not to buy it. I’d say that’s good. The ACA shouldn’t change how things are with your current health insurance if you have it. That’s good if you like your health insurance and bad if you don’t. But we still don’t know whether things will be better or worse because most of the provisions in the ACA have yet to be enacted. So when you hear people claim that the cost of healthcare is going to skyrocket as a result of Obamacare, they really have no data to support that assertion. Not yet, anyway. And, according to a new study by the non-profit, non-partisan RAND corporation, critics may be disappointed:
The federal Affordable Care Act will lead to an increase in health insurance coverage and higher enrollment among people who purchase individual policies, according to a new RAND Corporation study.
While there have been some reports that the cost of individual policies may jump sharply under health reform, a RAND analysis of 10 states and the United States overall predicts that there will be no widespread premium increase in the individual health insurance market.
Elise Viebeck has more:
The findings challenge predictions that ObamaCare will dramatically raise premiums and make healthcare less affordable across the country.
Researchers acknowledged that premiums would increase in some states and for some individuals, such as smokers. But they concluded that tax credits to make coverage more affordable would neutralize most projected increases in out-of-pocket spending.
The study was sponsored by the federal Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, a division of the agency charged with launching the new health insurance exchanges.
“Sweeping statements about the effects of the Affordable Care Act on premiums should be interpreted very carefully,” study authors wrote.
“Non-group premiums are estimated to remain unchanged at the national level and in many states.
“Further, after accounting for tax credits, average out-of-pocket premium spending in the nongroup market is estimated to decline or remain unchanged in all states considered and in the nation overall.”
So we are just going to have to wait and see. Open enrollment for employers begins in three weeks.
There are things that we all can do to lower our own (and, thus, everyone else’s) healthcare costs: don’t smoke, lose weight, eat healthier, get more exercise, take your medicines as prescribed, keep your vaccinations up-to-date, establish and keep a relationship with a primary care doctor, and so forth. In addition, there are two things that Pediatric Alliance patients can do to help reduce costs:
- Sign up for our patient portal: When you come in for your child’s next office visit, you can sign up for our patient portal. You’ll be given a token and instructions for going online to the portal website, creating (and saving so you don’t forget!) a password, and you’re in! The portal gives you direct access to your child’s health records, such as allergies, medication lists, office-visit dates, and immunizations. Adult primary care doctors and specialists may have their own patient portals as well, and you should sign up for them as well.
- “Opt-in” to our ClinicalConnect HIE: A health information exchange (HIE) allows critical medical information to be available to other providers who care for you. For example, if you end up in a specialist’s office or an emergency department, it would be very helpful for them to have a record which accurately documents your allergies, medications and dosages, chronic medical conditions, and the results of recent laboratory tests you may have had. Simply having this limited medical information available to keep other treating providers on the same page of your medical history should have an enormous impact on reducing the duplication of services and medical errors, helping to lower the cost of providing healthcare in this country.
What we do know is that, whether insured or not, healthcare is too expensive for everyone. There are plenty of things we can all be doing now to help decrease costs, improve access to care, and improve the quality of that care, even as we wait to see whether the ACA will work as envisioned.