Understand Public Excitement, Concern Behind ACA
By Kathy Wood, Ph.D., FHFMA, University Dean of Health Sciences
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has passed the litmus test of the U.S. Supreme Court. The act, also known as ACA or, more commonly, Obamacare, has many Americans excited about the availability of health services made possible under the law. Others are understandably uneasy. As is the case with any change, there are positive and negative aspects which should be fully understood as we move forward.
Healthcare professionals are going to face difficult conversations with those who land on both sides of this act. It’s important to keep the discussion neutral, professional, and to remain calm when discussing it with patients who may be excited or fearful about what it means for them. Encourage them to research the topic from a variety of sources, rather than just what’s reported in the news; a practice you’re well-advised to do yourself. Focus on the benefits that will have an impact in your patient’s life – like expanded coverage and health and wellness – and the new emphasis on the consumer rather than the provider.
ACA enthusiasts see the act as providing a framework for reform that focuses more on the delivery and financing of healthcare, and wellness and preventive medicine over disease treatment alone. Here are points of discussion taking place on both sides of the new law:
- It reduces the use of emergency room services, which are the most costly because of preventive and managed care. Costs are more equally spread among taxpayers.
- Health insurance is made affordable and available regardless of pre-existing conditions.
- Current coverage may be expanded to include lower out-of-pocket expenses.
- ACA has options to handle the 40 million people currently without healthcare, so more low-income people now can be covered.
On the flip side, there are issues that have the public leery of reform. Personal affordability is a concern. Is it really affordable for those who don’t manage their own care in a preventive way? Another worry is that current coverage may be expanded to facilitate lower out-of-pocket expenses to patients, resulting in additional costs to employers and insurers. Other concerns center on encroachments to personal freedoms, particularly:
- The individual mandate to purchase healthcare insurance by 2014, or be subject to tax penalty.
- The employer mandate to provide insurance.
- How to fund benefits for certain categories of people not required to make tax payments.
- Tax penalties can end up being less for families and employers than paying for coverage would be.
And inevitably, the longer-term questions arise: What else will government force people to do?
As ACA continues to be implemented, the outcomes of healthcare reform efforts cannot yet be predicted. Whatever results or drawbacks we see, continuous improvement of the system will be necessary. Healthcare finance leaders have been preparing for ACA’s implementation since 2010, and will need to continue with the preparation. As current and future healthcare administrators, you and your organization will be most effective if you familiarize yourself with the requirements that will have an impact on your patients in the short- and long-term.
How else can healthcare administrators prepare to serve patients with opposing viewpoints on ACA? Share ideas with me on Twitter @CTUHealth, or leave a comment below.
Kathy Wood, Ph.D., FHFMA, is the University Dean of Health Sciences at CTU. A fellow of the Healthcare Financial Management Association (FHFMA) with over 30 years industry experience, she also serves as director of Chapter Services on the board of the North Carolina Chapter of the Healthcare Financial Management Association (NCHFMA) and is a member of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).