So, About Those Doctor Shortages and Hospital Wait Times Because of Obamacare

As if waking up in post-racial America wasn’t good enough. I can now hesr the sound of US cholesterol levels dropping thanks to Obamacare. Yes, 2014 is finally here; Barack Obama is still the president of these United States, and he’s still black; and yes, the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land in spite of all previous attempts to destroy this signature piece of legislation. Yes, we even have the results of two presidential elections to justify its existence. The GOP has voted 44 times to repeal it, but like Antoine Fisher, it’s still standing.

Yesterday on January 1st, 2014, America’s mot-so-new-anymore health care law had an opportunity to walk down the red carpet much like A-List celebrities do at those swanky Hollywood premieres. Which is a good thing for many reasons not limited to talk about website glitches and a disastrous rollout. Instead, maybe black folks at least will have an opportunity to fight “the sugah” which happens to be the gateway to so many illnesses and diseases that disproportionately affect us people of color, because of affordable access to care.

On of January 1st, 2014 a little over 6 million people were covered under the nation’s health care law. But to let the naysayers tell it, this disaster of policy will create a near apocalyptic crisis which will result in longer hospital wait times, and a shortage of doctors. Today, with it being the second day of 2014, I have yet to see any news reports to substantiate those claims. What, is it that everyone is still hung over from those New Years Eve parties? Or, could it be that what was predicted by some, amounts to none other than your typical right-wing bullshit fearmongering that hardly represents am ounce of truth? According to a recent article in the Washington Post by Sarah Kliff, the later seems to hold true. But hey, don’t tell that to the folks hell-bent on not allowing the allotted three years for the Affordable care Act to be fully implemented.

Wednesday is a big day for Obamacare. Because it’s the day that at least 6 millionAmericans gain health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.


Except, health policy experts don’t expect it to feel like a big day, at least not for the country’s millions of health-care providers. They don’t expect huddled masses showing up at their local emergency department when the clock strikes midnight and their insurance coverage kicks in. Nor do they think most Americans will find their doctors suddenly unavailable, swamped with new patients they need to see — not on New Year’s Day, and maybe not ever.


“People are going to be surprised by how little happens,” says Ashish Jha, a Harvard professor who has studied Massachusetts’s insurance expansion. “We’re all thinking there will be this new flood of people. And there will be some people with pent up demand, but I think there’s a lot more slack in the system than we give it credit for.”


Researchers know that people do tend to use more health care when they have insurance. That point, proved most famously in the RAND Health Insurance Experiment of the 1970s, is pretty much undisputed.


At the same time, many doubt that these patients, who account for less than 2 percent of the population, will cause sudden capacity issues. For the 6 million people gaining insurance coverage Wednesday, their new plan is certainly a big deal. At the same time, for a health system that sees hundreds of millions of patients already, this increase could amount to a drop in the bucket. (And, one caveat: Some of those 6 million people already have insurance right now, and are renewing their policies under Obamacare, so we’re not necessarily taking about 6 million newly-insured Americans.)


Even before the Affordable Care Act kicked in, some patients had difficulty finding a doctor who would accept their coverage. This is especially true with Medicaid, where 30 percent of doctors are not currently accepting new patients. The problem is particularly acute in states that pay Medicaid doctors much lower rates than the Medicare program.

obamacare-doctor-shortage-featTo be fair, as Kliff goes on to point out, there may be some confusion at first; and yes, there may be an issue with the availability of doctors to new patients. However, as also pointed out in her piece, these are traditional changes to be expected with any change in health care policy. In other words, we have seen this before and it is nothing new. Most certainly, what many may face is not as a result of the new law.

It’s just like I explained to one of my dear right-wing leaning friends yesterday: In my 43-year experience on this earth, hospital wait times have always been extremely long. So, while we may have a shortage of doctors in America, instead of egregiously using the Affordable Care Act as the scapegoat to further malign president Obama. Wouldn’t it make more sense to force Congress to pass immigration reform legislation which includes an increase of H1-B Visas to be extended to high-skilled foreign workers. You know, like foreign-born doctors to whom many of us now entrust our lives? You know, doctors like my brother who is working on becoming a neurologist; who, like me, was not born in this country but is now an American citizen? Yep, see how I killed two birds with one stone just now? Here’s to hoping we the people can get Congress to act this year.