The financial impact of Health Reform on medical professionals across the country is difficult to predict. Physicians derive their income in different ways with many being independent practitioners and others working as employees of large physician groups and hospital systems. Since current Health Reform legislation is aimed primarily at covering more people, physicians, hospitals, and outpatient centers will likely have more business following the passage of this reform. In a modified fee for service system like the one under which most people are covered, this would mean more income as more services are provided. This fact makes it difficult to understand how covering more individuals will decrease health care cost.
One of the ways Health Reform will decrease costs is to eliminate the expense of the uninsured or under insured patients. Currently many services granted to the uninsured are funded by increased cost to those who have insurance through higher charges by both physicians and hospitals. Physicians who have seen health care coverage deductibles rise in recent years and patients delay or go without basic care, will hopefully see a return of these patients, along with increased revenue from the services they render.
Another focus of the Health Reform legislation, removing the exclusion on pre-existing conditions should open up more affordable private insurance to patients who have such conditions, again resulting in an increase in patient visits to those physicians in private practice and also increasing many preventive visits and procedures such as Pap smears, mammograms, and cholesterol screening. While these kinds of tests will decrease costs in the long run, they will still provide work and income for physicians and nurse practitioner as people receive medical care for the conditions that are diagnosed. There will also be an influx of patients with diabetes and heart disease, who were getting only minimal care under public assistance programs or who also had very high deductible insurance from “high risk pools.”
If the business aspects of Health Reform, such as electronic medical record keeping takes hold, this will begin to lower the costs of record keeping along with coding, billing and collecting costs, increasing profits for medical professionals who are paid in a fee for service manner. Electronic medical records will also reduce cost by eliminating duplication of testing. For physicians such as pathologist and radiologist, who interpret these tests, it may seem that this will reduce the volume of work. Since more individuals will be covered, this will add volume to their business, evening out the losses.
Finally, health reform has specific goals to decrease conditions such as obesity, which increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. With this type of mandate to improve patient health, primary care physicians and nurse practitioners will have an influx of patients as people are incentivized to live healthier lives, reducing both their own out of pocket costs long with the long term cost to the health care system. Over all medical professionals should maintain their income, though some restructuring and initial cost maybe required at the outset of Health Reform.