Finally signed into law after months of debate, the Affordable Care Act has been a hot-button topic of debate since its inception in 2010. Intended as a way to bring healthcare to everyone by mandating coverage and subsidizing costs through state marketplace exchanges, the law has been both praised for its intent, and vilified for its failings. While some Americans have been able to procure coverage through low-cost plans and non-discrimination clauses covering pre-existing conditions, others have seen existing plan prices skyrocket.
Broader insurance coverage, and the inability of insurers to charge premiums for, or deny coverage due to pre-existing or chronic illnesses, have led to changes in the healthcare industry as well. In fact, due to the implementation of the ACA, as well as cuts in funding and lack of expected expansion in Medicare, hospitals have changed focus to reward high-value care, as opposed to an increased volume of services.
So, what does this look like for you, the healthcare consumer? According to Mitchell Morris from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, “The goal is to keep people healthy so they’re not admitted in the first place.” He goes on to point out that readmissions will be a particularly important focus since, “… readmission is [now] a trip to the penalty box instead of an incentive, hospitals are getting creative.” The government, in an attempt to increase transparency and quality of care, is also capping reimbursement rates for certain diagnosis, as well as having hospitals pay for their own medical errors.
This means more focus on well-care for patients, as well as increased competency and quality of care during inpatient stays. Practically, for the consumer, this means that your primary care physician or specialist will focus on keeping you well by helping you to create a healthier lifestyle through exercise, diet, and medication, in order to keep you out of the hospital in the first place. Therefore, healthcare plans that focus on coverage of regularly scheduled well-care, as well as prescription drug coverage or subsidization will be of great advantage to the consumer.
In the event that you do require a stay in the hospital, you can count on an increase in the quality of care. This means extra care is given to your diagnosis and plan of care prior to any procedure, in order to reduce the chance of complication, or the need for additional procedures. This also means that, in order to craft the best plan of care, hospitals and health networks will increase collaboration and communication, to create more detailed understandings of the patient’s needs. This will likely lead to more effective treatments and comprehensive post-procedure care while in the hospital, in order to reduce the possibility of readmission, as well as an increased focus on the importance of follow-up visits and post-procedure rehabilitation.
The bottom line, though healthcare costs continue to rise, so does the quality of the care received, through increased focus on well-care, quality of inpatient care and rehabilitation, and increased communication and collaboration between healthcare providers. For more information on the future of healthcare in America check out the resources below.