How the Affordable Care Act May Lead to Higher Demand for Public Health Professionals

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law by President Obama roughly three years ago. Since its implementation, families and health care facilities have received considerable gains or losses due to this change. According to the U.S. Department of Human Health Services, the ACA was signed to make preventative care — family planning and related services — more affordable and accessible for Americans.

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States Have the Opportunity to Opt Out of Health Care Reform

According to a CBS News article, “States opting out of Medicaid expansion could leave many uninsured.” The Supreme Court states this option when it clarified the parts of the ACA that do not need to be followed.

In a report published by the Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, a state-by-state analysis estimates that more than five million health care patients would have coverage if all of the states participated in the Medicaid expansion. However, half of the nation’s community health centers (CHC) are in states that opted out of the expansion.

Today, 25 states have opted out of the Medicaid expansion. Approximately 72 percent of the states that denied the reform are Southern states. According to this report, the result of these states’ choices to opt out left more than a million uninsured CHC patients that would have been covered under a nationwide Medicaid expansion.

Benefits of the Health Care Reform

The primary care reforms in the ACA, listed on Commonwealthfund.org, include:

  • Provisions for temporarily increasing Medicare and Medicaid payments to primary care providers
  • Fostering innovation in the delivery of care, with special attention paid to care models that will lead to better health outcomes and reduced patient-care experiences
  • Enhancing support of primary care providers
  • Investing in the continued development of the primary care workforce

The website states that if these changes are implemented effectively, the United States will be on the path to a stronger and more sustainable primary care system — one that not only will provide expanded access and superior quality but also will lead to better health outcomes for millions of Americans, while reducing future health costs for our nation.

A Need for More Health Care Providers

An effective health system only can function if there is a strong primary care foundation available to the people. According to Essentials of the U.S. Healthcare System, those who can obtain medical attention regularly are less likely to contract a serious illness as opposed to those who do not have access to regular primary care physicians.

A recent study has shown that half of all adults have difficulty obtaining access to primary care physicians. Delays to see doctors or nurses and receiving care after hours also have been problems in the United States.

Only 29 percent of U.S. primary care practices are available to patients during evening hours, on the weekends or on holidays, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Population growth, according to a 2008 study found on Commonwealthfund.org, predicts that primary care physicians’ workloads will increase by one-third between 2005 and 2025.

How the ACA Is Impacting Primary Care

Commonwealthfund.org lists several provisions of the ACA that will impact the primary care industry, including:

  • Primary care reimbursement rates with Medicare will increase by 10 percent.
  • Medicaid levels of reimbursement will increase to about the same level as Medicare.
  • Thirty-two million more people will be insured.
  • Fifteen to 20 million patients with preventative or primary care coverage will be served by 2015.

Commonwealthfund.org also states that federally qualified health care centers (FQHC) will receive several benefits due to the ACA, including but not limited to:

  • $11 billion provided over a five-year period to expand the FQHC program
  • A new teaching-health-center grant program
  • Loan forgiveness for pediatric subspecialists and mental-health services providers

The ACA puts primary care facilities first to ensure Americans are getting the best health care available. This ultimately means that health care professionals are in high demand due to the way the ACA is structured. No doubt, new health care curriculums — such as those for Masters of Public Health programs — will be attractive to students seeking secure, lucrative careers.

 

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About the Author: Steve Burton is an economist who studies U.S. job trends.

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