Many Newly Insured Individuals Struggle To Find Primary Care Docs
Many of the millions of U.S. residents who gained health coverage under the Affordable Care Act are struggling to find primary care physician, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The issue partly stems from many physicians saying they are either at capacity or overextended and planning on cutting back the number of patients they see.
About one in five U.S. residents lives in an area of the country that has been designated as having a PCP shortage. The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts that the physician shortage will grow over the next decade, reaching a shortage of about 66,000 physicians. According to AAMC, more primary care residency spots are vacant because more medical students are choosing to pursue specialty areas, which usually boast higher incomes.
Meanwhile, insurers also are restricting the number of PCPs included in their plans' networks to cut costs.
The result is that newly insured patients have trouble scheduling appointments with PCPs within a reasonable amount of time.
Still, experts say that newly insured patients are receiving necessary care, despite having to:
- Drive long distances;
- Face extended patient wait times; or
- See physician assistants or nurse practitioners instead of physicians.
In addition, experts note that such patients are receiving care for the first time.
Further, they note that the patient surge has forced PCPs to streamline their practice and use other office staff instead of visiting with each patient themselves. According to the AP/Chronicle, AAMC's 115,000 physicians said they are adding additional physicians to their practices and adding weekend appointment times (Kennedy, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 12/7).
Telemedicine Visits Remain Uncovered Despite Doc Shortage
In related news, many telemedicine services, like video visits with physicians, remain uncovered by insurance plans despite physician shortages throughout the U.S., USA Today reports.
According to USA Today, nearly 30 states do not allow reimbursement for video visits with physicians. States have expressed concern that physicians who see patients via videoconferencing systems will not follow up with patients appropriately.
However, the American Medical Association estimates that more than 25 states will attempt to develop or update telemedicine laws in 2015. According to USA Today, AMA recently approved a group of model telemedicine bills dealing with state licensing and reimbursement that it hopes state legislators will introduce next year (O'Donnell, USA Today, 12/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.