The Affordable Care Act: What Medical Students Need to Know

Source: StudentDoctor

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By Annie Davis

In addition to caring for patients, working in the healthcare industry means continuously learning about new treatments, practices, and medicines. That’s not all, though. Another aspect of being a healthcare professional includes adapting to oncoming changes in policy and legislation.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has raised questions from millions of Americans worried about what the future holds for them concerning their insurance coverage and their health care’s quality. And some of those Americans are medical students and healthcare professionals.

If you work – or will work – in the healthcare field, read on to learn about what to expect in the future.

How It’ll Affect Hospitals

Since most healthcare professionals work in the hospital, it’s especially important to know how the ACA will impact hospital operations. For starters, the ACA lets the federal government withhold Medicare payments from hospitals if too many of their patients return within 30 days of their discharge for ailments like pneumonia or a heart attack. This emphasizes the focus on what happens to the patient when he or she leaves the hospital after treatment or surgery, meaning healthcare providers will follow up more after a patient goes home. It also means that hospitals will seek to minimize readmissions to avoid getting penalties.

Additionally, hospitals are big businesses with many moving parts. With new policies to implement, new billing requirements, and a new way to report data, everyone who works in the environment must be properly trained and aware of the new procedures. Because of changes in how hospitals receive payment and the new regulations in place, mergers and consolidations will take place more frequently. Healthcare systems will rely more on clinics and urgent care centers instead of stand-alone institutions (hospitals) to generate their revenues.

Smaller rural hospitals are facing changes, too. The ACA will have cuts in Medicare reimbursements and implement a new payment system that is based on the quality of care. Some rural hospitals, unable to deal with the changes, are forced to close their doors.

How It’ll Affect Doctors

OK, so now that you know how the ACA could impact a hospital you might work in one day, it’s time to look at how it’ll directly impact you if you’re a doctor. As a doctor, you should expect to see an increase of patients coming in for annual physicals covered by the new legislation. As a result, doctors will have a chance to find health problems early before they become major issues. Additionally, if you’re a pediatrician, you can expect to see families more frequently because regular visits, immunizations, and screenings are free in many coverage plans.

One of the biggest impacts the ACA has on doctors is that it requires them to convert all their handwritten patient records to electronic files. This has had so much of an impact already that many doctors have decided to retire instead of spend the large amount of money required to complete this conversion. On a positive note, the federal government offers incentives to those who convert to electronic files and use them in a meaningful way. As a medical student, you’ll likely want to receive training on new software that help with this process.

Doctors and medical students will probably also be dealing with frustrated patients for months to come. The much-maligned website hasn’t made the policy very popular. Back in October 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services enlisted the aid of companies like Verizon to help the embattled website. It saw significant improvement as a result, but the aforementioned ill feelings are still a very real barrier for doctor-patient relations.

How It’ll Affect Nursing Homes

If you’re goal is to work in a nursing home, then there’s good news for you in that you won’t have to deal with major changes. Most private insurance plans didn’t pay for assisted living or for nursing homes before the ACA – that’s not changing. Additionally, Medicare usually doesn’t cover long-term stays in either of these establishments.

Although this isn’t exactly great news for people who are looking for assistance, the good news is that the Centers for Medicate and Medicaid Services will penalize nursing facilities that provide substandard care. Conversely, they’ll have a financial incentive to cut down the instances of dehydration and bedsores among residents. These facilities will also receive a bundles payment for the service they deliver during an “episode of care,” which the government defines as something like a hip replacement or a heart attack.

Although this briefly outlines some of the more important factors to consider concerning the ACA, you’ll want to conduct more in-depth research about what to expect – whether you’re a medical student or already a healthcare worker. Arm yourself with a pen and pad, and take notes. The more you study the intricacies of the ACA, the better you’ll feel when one of your coworkers or patients asks you about it.

How do you feel about the ACA? Everyone has an opinion — express yours.

Author Bio:
Annie Davis is a freelance writer from Tampa, FL. Besides writing, she also enjoys traveling, cooking, and kayaking.

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