Providence Monroe ready to serve newly insured patients
MONROE - Dr. Deb Nalty is hearing a lot from patients on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, but to her this is a step in the right direction toward universal health care.
Nalty, a family practitioner, is the director of Providence’s new clinic in Monroe, which opened to patients Monday, Oct. 7. She is a self-described progressive Democrat who rallied for the new health care law and follows international health news.
Most of her patients are praising the ACA because it gives them greater access to medical care. The new insurance system that for many will be partially subsidized by the federal government will finally let them afford doctor appointments.
“I have a lot of patients without insurance who are really sick,” Nalty said before sighing.
Americans are rationing their health care needs by skipping on doctor visits, she said.
She thinks the new health care law will save America money in the long run. By having more people able to get regular checkups, doctors can identify manageable health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes before they become irreparable and lead to costly emergency room visits.
“Imagine how much money we can save by hooking up people with primary care physicians,” Nalty said.
Healthy young people who under the new law are required to get health insurance may gripe about the cost, but having insurance is part of being an adult, Nalty said.
“We all have to buy in,” Nalty said.
The health care law requires almost everyone under 65 to have a health insurance plan by Jan. 1 or pay a fine. People 65 and older are automatically covered under Medicare, a government-run health care program. Really poor people who still can’t get coverage under the new law won’t be fined.
The new law puts price controls on medical services and equipment, flattening costs on everything from CT scans to hospital equipment.
“Everything here costs way more than in other countries,” Nalty said, because those countries strictly regulate medical costs. In Japan, an MRI scan may cost $100 at the most, Nalty said.
Time magazine in a March 2013 special report “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us,” by Steven Brill exposed the out-of-control nature of the American health care system.
Nalty acknowledges Providence will lose money because of these controls, “but we have to figure it out,” she said.
Uninsured patients often get the worst deal, she said. The price for a $50 prescription for a cash (uninsured) patient usually is cheaper for insured patients.
Doctors will end up taking pay cuts as well, Nalty said. She’s OK with that.
Medical professionals like Nalty didn’t go into medicine to make high wages, she said, they practice to help people.
“We didn’t go into this for the money, we serve people,” Nalty said. “For us, the more people who can get care, the better.”
Some specialists, of course, may find ways to keep making more money by rejecting government insurance plans that reimburse them too little, Nalty said, just like many doctors who won’t take Medicaid or Medicare patients now.
She said specialists are one of the few groups in the medical field who mostly are against the ACA.
Providence is adding to its staff in anticipation of new patients now able to afford medical care as a result of the new law.
The Monroe clinic is adding three more doctors and other staff, Nalty said.
The newly opened Monroe clinic was built to save money by implementing lean practices. Some of these practices include movable carts that require stocking less equipment and placing patients’ rooms closer to doctors, said Patt Richesin, project manager for Providence Monroe Clinic.
Providence also is making cost-saving measures for patients and the hospital. For example, at the Monroe clinic, patients can participate in group sessions with a doctor for a much lower cost than a one-on-one visit.
“We’re ready and prepared” for the new law, Nalty said.
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