The Health Reform Law signed March 23, 2010, will increase demand in all areas of health care in America. The intent of the law was to create a virtual universal health care system in America that could accommodate all the people. Few people are able to pay cash for medical services; most of us rely on health insurance to cover our medical expenses. Prior to the signing of the Health Reform bill, health care insurance hasn’t been widely available to all Americans and this has caused many of us to put off early treatment until the ailment assumes critical proportions. When it does, we must then go to emergency rooms, with our then advanced disease. The emergency room is the most expensive type of medical care, and one of the chief reasons Americans are spending a stunning $2 trillion a year on medical services. Making health insurance accessible and affordable to all Americans is the answer to this problem.
Being insured, people will be able to seek early treatment, and preventative medicine can thus curtail the more expensive procedures that are the root cause of the uncontrolled growth of medical care cost. The law has already taken effect and the ramifications, in terms of numbers of patients, are about to descend on a health services industry that is ill prepared to handle the increased volume.
Currently, health services in the U.S. are barely able to keep up with the 150 million employer-insured and the 40 million elderly citizens receiving Medicare. By 2019, the ranks of the employer-insured are expected to increase by 9 million, and Medicare will take on another 12 million people. Exchanges, a vehicle that will provide low cost insurance to small businesses and individuals, will add an additional 25 million to the rolls. From 2010 to 2019, approximately 46 million new people will be added to the health care load. Does our current health services industry have what’s needed to accommodate this relatively sudden growth?
Most of the burden of this increase will fall on the primary care component of the health services industry. According to the Academy of Family Physicians, by 2020, the demand will far outweigh the supply of these professionals. 40,000 new primary care professionals is what the demand will require. At that time, we’ll have a situation in which nearly everyone can afford medical treatment, while yet fewer professionals are available to provide it.
To meet the expected increase in medical services demands, the new Health Law has allocated billions to the education of new health care professionals. Even if they were to get started immediately, most would not be fully trained until from four to six years hence. To get the ball rolling, the law has provided funds for education in the health services field, has made scholarships and grants available, and is set to support professionals in whatever continuing studies they may need to handle the new demand. Demand over supply will also inevitably increase monetary compensation for available health care professionals. For those considering health services as a career, a wide open field awaits them with all the help they will need to establish their new careers.
Attention is also being focused on how and where health care may be delivered. The law is allocating $11 billion for the creation of new health centers in our communities. Work is underway to promote nurse-operated clinics. Nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants will take on new roles, having increased responsibilities. Expect to see new and different medical facilities working in coordination, in order to optimize the use of health service personnel.