Affordable Care Act

The American health care system is changing, thanks to new legislation like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Individuals and families with incomes as high as 400% of the poverty level will be eligibility for credits or other subsidization; all citizens, regardless of income, will be required to have coverage. For many Americans, this means better access to health care.
The legislation has implications for health care professionals as well as families. In what ways? A simplistic answer might be that more access means more demand for health professionals. There is certainly some validity to that. State nursing workforce sites have warned that while there has been a decrease in demand for new nurses entering the field, this trend will reverse, due to demographic changes, and, likely, due to increased access as well.

Critical Care vs. Preventive Care

Increased access sometimes, but not always, means greater demand. The picture is more complex. Hospitals like Seattle’s renowned UW Medical Center don’t demand proof of insurance (or of sufficient income and assets) when people walk in the door. In fact, medical centers and physicians around the nation are used to providing emergency and critical care services to people who are simply not able to pay – people who can’t sell their assets because they have none.

What has often been lacking is preventive health care. Studies have found that when people have high deductible insurance, they frequently skimp on preventive services like cancer screenings. The Kaiser Commission notes that it’s the uninsured who are most likely to be hospitalized for preventable occurrences. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act stipulates that evidence-based preventative care is not to be included in the deductible; services like mammograms are to be covered for those in the recommended age group even if they are well below their annual deductible. Will this change the face of health care? Organizations like the American Nurses Association are certainly hoping so.

It is expected that the coming years will see a shift from acute care to community care. Those seeking employment will want to stay informed about hiring trends.

Shifting Work Settings

Any legislation as lengthy and complex as the Affordable Care Act will have far-ranging implications; it will affect different groups in divergent, though sometimes subtle ways. One provision calls for a payer increase for physicians who work in rural areas. These are areas where it has typically been hard to attract doctors. (If you’re paying off medical school debts, and anticipating that you’ll be doing so for a while, you may want to consider moving to a more rural area.)

The Affordable Care Act also increases funding for school-based clinics. Some of the allocated funding was released in July of 2011. It is anticipated that this will increased the number of children served by over 50%. More than half of the funding, though, is yet to be released.

Those at the other end of the population range should also benefit. Other reforms are targeted at raising standards at long term care facilities and improving care for the elderly.

Finding the Facts You Need

Where can you turn for more information? is one source; there are frequent blog posts from members of the administration. The Kaiser Foundation is another source of in-depth information. If you’re a health care professional, or a health care student, you’ll also want to turn to your professional organization. The government has invited feedback from professional organizations, and they have risen to the occasion. Organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association track legislature and offer feedback on those nitty gritty details. There has been a lot of support from the health care community, but also some criticism of particular provisions and phrases.