Health care providers expect more patients with Affordable Care Act


Doctors and hospital officials don’t know how much pent-up demand for medical services will be unleashed by the Affordable Care Act in January and beyond, but they say health care is changing so newly insured patients receive more efficient services.

“We’re going to treat more people, but in the right setting, at the right time and at the right price – that’s the future of health care,” said Ed Curtis, president and chief executive officer of Memorial Health System.

Memorial, which operates Springfield’s Memorial Medical Center, Taylorville Memorial Hospital and Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital in Lincoln, is “embracing that change,” Curtis said. “We’re not fighting it. America’s health care is too expensive. It’s choking our economy.”

A planned expansion of Medicaid eligibility for Illinoisans as part of the ACA could provide publicly funded coverage to as many as 8,000 uninsured people in Sangamon County alone, according to Dr. Jerry Kruse, chief executive officer of SIU HealthCare.

The Illinois health insurance exchange that is scheduled to begin enrolling people Oct. 1 could provide coverage, often with federal assistance to reduce premium costs and other out-of-pocket expenses, to thousands more. The coverage will begin Jan. 1.

Statewide, there will be enough family doctors to assist Illinoisans who gain coverage through the ACA over the next few years, according to the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians.

Doctor shortages will be more of a challenge later, the academy says, though critics of the ACA point out expanded insurance coverage doesn’t necessarily lead to more access to health care.

A study published in Health Affairs in August 2012 said almost one-third of office-based doctors in the United States, and 35 percent of doctors in Illinois, were unwilling to accept new Medicaid patients (, largely because Medicaid payment rates tend to be lower than other forms of insurance.

The study also says, “Prior evidence suggests that physicians’ acceptance of Medicaid patients will increase as Medicaid payment rates increase.”

As part of the ACA, many primary-care doctors will qualify this year and next for Medicaid payments at Medicare levels. It’s unclear whether that temporary increase in payments will have the hoped-for result of more doctors willing to serve Medicaid patients.

Hospital officials said inpatient care probably won’t increase much because of the ACA.


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