As the deadline for full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (more commonly known as Obamacare) approaches, there is a lot of information out there about how this legislation affects patients all over America. There is also a lot of information—and some misinformation—coming from both sides of a very heated political debate, which is why you may have questions that have nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with finding the best possible medical care for you and your family. If you’re curious about how the new law will affect private medicine, here is a brief overview.
More Patients Coming
Primary care physicians who operate in a traditional practice model already have a huge patient load. In fact, studies show that the average patient load for a primary care practice is between 2,000 and 4,000 patients, and with Obamacare, that number will only go up in 2014 as the new law adds 30 million previously uninsured patients to health insurance roles. There is evidence that patients who have insurance utilize primary care physicians and preventive care at a higher rate than uninsured patients, so these newly insured will add significant strain to an already strained system.
At the same time, there is a shortage of primary care physicians. With a very low number of students entering medical school who intend to become family doctors, that shortage will likely get worse, and many patients who get care from a traditional primary care practice model will see longer wait time, higher patient loads, and even less time with their physician when they do get in for an appointment.
Patients Seeking Better Access and Care
For many private medicine physicians, Obamacare has actually provided a boost to their practice. With the media constantly reinforcing the fact that already overworked doctors will see an increase in their patient loads, patients who can afford to pay a little bit more for their care have begun seeking concierge practices to join.
For concierge physicians, this is good news, as demand for their practices grow, and the number of patients seeking the enhanced services that private medicine offers makes this practice model a viable option for any care provider who already has a private medicine practice or is interested in changing to one.
Improving Medical Students’ Outlook
While some have criticized private medicine because doctors are reducing the number of patients they will see—sometimes by as much as 90 percent—at the same time that people everywhere are having difficulty finding a primary care doctor, there are others who think that concierge medicine could actually turn the tide back toward medical students choosing primary care.
In the current healthcare climate, primary care physicians make an average of about $221,000, which is barely over half of what a specialist makes at $396,000. Since the overhead costs of running a primary care practice continue to go up, this lower income serves to deter many students from choosing primary care or general medicine.
However, with a concierge model that enables primary care physicians to bring down expenses and increase income, all while providing more personalized care to their patients, more students may see general medicine as an attractive option and we could see more doctors in the future who choose this avenue.
An Affordable Option for Families
Another criticism of concierge medicine is that the added fees make it a privilege that can only be enjoyed by the rich. However, with the increasing number of concierge practices, many of these private medicine doctors are now offering affordable fees to remain competitive, and people from a range of economic backgrounds can afford it. While there still are some concierge practices that charge as much as $20,000 a year or more, there are also many that have more affordable retainers, some as low as $200 a year.
The goal of Obamacare is to lower healthcare costs while offering better care to more Americans. Whether that is the end result of the new law still remains to be seen. However, as the new law goes into effect, there is no denying that it will change the face of healthcare forever, and providers today are already looking for ways they can maintain or improve their practice and the care they offer to patients. Concierge medicine may be the answer for these providers.