A supposed concern about The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is that there are not enough doctors to handle all the new patients. My immediate thought is that the most important thing is that all Americans have access to quality health care. It is not right that you or I should have better access to care than the next person based on our social status or income.
But putting that aside, here is what Obamacare does to address the problem. These items went into effect in 2010, so even though their full effect is not being seen yet, they are already being addressed. Some of this information comes from healthcare.gov.
To strengthen the availability of primary care, there are new incentives in the law to expand the number of primary care doctors, nurses and physician assistants, including funding for scholarships and loan repayments for primary care doctors and nurses working in underserved areas. Doctors and nurses receiving payments made under any state loan repayment or loan forgiveness program intended to increase the availability of health care services in underserved or health professional shortage areas will not have to pay taxes on those payments.
Here is how some of the money is being spent.
- Creating additional primary care residency slots: $168 million for training more than 500 new primary care physicians by 2015;
- Supporting physician assistant training in primary care: $32 million for supporting the development of more than 600 new physician assistants, who practice medicine as members of a team with their supervising physician, and can be trained in a shorter period of time compared to physicians;
- Increasing the number of nurse practitioners trained: $30 million will train an additional 600 nurse practitioners, including providing incentives for part-time students to become full-time and complete their education sooner. Nurse practitioners provide comprehensive primary care;
- Establishing new nurse practitioner-led clinics: $15 million for the operation of 10 nurse-managed health clinics which assist in the training of nurse practitioners. These clinics are staffed by nurse practitioners, which provide comprehensive primary health care services to populations living in medically underserved communities.
- Encouraging States to plan for and address health professional workforce needs: $5 million for States to plan and implement innovative strategies to expand their primary care workforce by 10 to 25 percent over ten years to meet increased demand for primary care services.
Notice that there are also jobs being created with this part of Obamacare.
Obamacare also will provide for the construction and upgrading of community health centers (this is already taking place). This will allow the centers to serve 20 million more patients across the country.
One other benefit is that the new Community First Choice Option allows states to offer home and community based services to disabled people through Medicaid rather than institutional care in nursing homes. This went into effect in 2011.
So access to care improves, the number of doctors and physicians assistants and nurse practitioners and nurses increases, with the bottom line being patients benefit.