Fears of crowded doctors’ offices wrong

Study: access to health care won't congest waiting rooms

  • By
  • healthinsurance.org Contributor
  • October 22, 2012

The Affordable Care Act is not expected to lead to a stampede in demand for medical services, but it will provide more equitable access when care IS needed.

In 2014, 12 million Americans will begin purchasing health insurance in the new marketplaces known as “exchanges.” Some are now uninsured and will be gaining coverage for the first time. Others have insurance through a small employer, or purchase their own policies. But few have the comprehensive coverage that will be available in the Exchanges where nine out of ten will receive federal subsidies, making that coverage suddenly affordable. Simultaneously millions of low-income families will become eligible for Medicaid. All told, Price Waterhouse Cooper’s Health Research Institute projects that that Affordable Care Act will extend health insurance to approximately 30 million Americans.

Thirty million?  Gloomsters predict that doctors’ waiting rooms, hospitals and ERS will be packed. “Like Long Medical Wait Times, Crowded Emergency Rooms? You’ll love Obamacare,” snipes a headline on Reason.com, a libertarian website.  Some of reform’s opponents warn that you won’t be able you can’t get an appointment with your own doctor. Others suggest that as demand for medical care rises, so will prices.

Many newly insured are younger, healthier

The number-crunchers at Price Waterhouse Cooper’s HRI say that the fear mongering is just plain wrong. In a report issued earlier this month, they point to demographic data that suggests the newly insured are not likely to “overwhelm the healthcare system or substantially drive up costs immediately after gaining coverage.” This is because the overwhelming majority – 88% – will be in relatively good health. HRI’s analysis reveals that the average age of the newly insured will be just 33. Thus, “providers are not likely to be immediately overburdened.”

What many forget is that, unless he is in pain, the average American under 65 is not terribly eager to see a doctor. Recently, I spoke to Ceci Connolly, HRI’s Managing Director, and she agreed.  Going to the doctor typically means taking time off work, sitting in a waiting room for 30 or 45 minutes, disrobing, waiting for the doctor to note that you’ve gained 10 pounds, answering questions about how many beers you drink each week, and worst of all, there is the possibility that you’ll receive bad news – news that you really don’t want to hear.

Preventive care may lead to healthier aging population

Granted, as they grow older, these new entrants to the health care system will need more care. As the relatively healthy  33-year-old moves into his mid-40s and his body begins to tell him that he is no longer young, he will be more likely to take advantage of the free preventive care that the Affordable Care Act provides. But because he will have easy access to preventive care, odds are that he will stay relatively healthy into his 50s and 60s. By contrast, if he had remained uninsured or underinsured, he would be much more likely to become a burden on our health care system.

Maggie MaharOn HealthBeatBlog, Maggie Mahar puts the fear-mongering about universal coverage flooding the system with patients, while pushing the nation’s healthcare bill skyward, in a larger context: Truth Squad: Is ‘Obamacare’ Pushing Health Care Spending Higher? What Will Happen in 2014?”  Hard numbers reveal that, under the influence of Obamacare, we already have begun to break the back of healthcare inflation


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