Thanks to the ACA, a larger share of Americans have health insurance than ever before. Increased coverage is translating into improved access to medical care — as well as greater financial security and better health. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans still get their health care through sources that predate the law, such as a job or Medicare, and are benefiting from improved consumer protections, such as free preventive services.
Unfortunately, there is no incentive for the private insurers to lift the pre-authorization burdens from the “good guy” physicians. Therefore, this will probably have to be achieved through legislation. With big data, it should be fairly easy to identify extreme provider outliers – and have their practices reviewed. For the rest of us, our pattern of judicious prescription of tests, services, and procedures should win us a break from the daily grind of begging, wheedling, and cajoling payers to allow us to get our individual patients what they need, every single time we order something. Until this freedom to practice medicine is achieved, true access to healthcare will not simply be a matter of having health insurance, it will be whether or not your physician has the will to fight for your needs. A “good doctor” has to be more than an excellent diagnostician these days – she must be a savvy, health insurance regulatory navigator and relentless patient advocate. Keep that in mind as you choose your next physician!
Most recently, efforts to instill greater cost consciousness on the part of consumers have led to the development of consumer-driven health plans, typified by health savings accounts combined with high-deductible health plans. Individuals and their employers make tax-free contributions to a health savings account up to a proscribed dollar limit. By assuming responsibility for substantial first-dollar expenditures, the expectation is that consumers will use services prudently. However, some individuals with these plans have delayed or postponed care and have expressed dissatisfaction with such plans. Concern also exists that tax-free health accounts will attract high-income persons in good health, leaving low-income persons with health problems in traditional insurance plans.
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