The Affordable Care Act won’t address our physician shortage–a problem expected to grow to as many as 52,000 needed physicians by 2025. And for many, the ACA still isn’t providing actually affordable care. To bridge these gaps, we must find innovative ways facilitate hassle free access to a provider that is more cost-effective. There is a solution.
While 87% of Americans now have health insurance, overwhelming co-pays, high deductibles and a lack of primary care doctors still stand in the way of healthcare for many.
An average GOLD level plan—one of the more expensive, “better” insurance plans—still has a deductible of $2,000 for an individual, which approximately 40% of Americans cannot afford. Thirty-five percent of Americans already struggle with medical debt despite that 70% of those struggling have insurance. And by 2025, the United States faces a potential physician shortage of as many as 52,000.
For many, new health insurance is not providing access to affordable care, and the ACA will not address the physician shortage. To bridge that gap, we must find innovative ways facilitate hassle free access to a provider that is more cost-effective. Telemedicine is a growing model that is a part of the answer.
Read more in Forbes.
I am convinced that telemedicine is a crucial part of the solution for delivery of healthcare in the United States–care that isn’t yet affordable or accessible for all. Tennessee has made important steps toward ensuring telemedicine is an option for our citizens, but there’s more to do.
Telemedicine is in its infancy in Tennessee. Specialists at our university medical centers provide remote consultations and conduct virtual patient examinations. School nurses in rural counties use secure telemedicine links for consults. But it is vastly underused where the need is the highest: in the delivery of primary care.
Telemedicine can prevent an ER visit on a Saturday night and keep a busy Monday morning on track. Patients can avoid travel time, last-minute child care arrangements and a lengthy stay in the waiting room.
Telemedicine does not replace the need for a relationship with a family physician, but it does serve as a convenient, affordable and high-quality alternative to an unnecessary ER visit.
Last year, Tennessee became the 21st state to enact “telemedicine parity” legislation requiring that insurers reimburse licensed health care providers for services delivered remotely just as they would for in-person visits.
The legislation removes the wasteful financial incentive to having patients make a trip to an emergency room when a telemedicine consult would suffice. In both cases, the reimbursement to the provider would be the same. Tennessee’s parity law also includes TennCare, the state’s managed Medicaid program. The law was signed by Gov. Bill Haslam in April and became effective Jan. 1.
It’s a good first step, but Tennessee must go further. We need two additional assurances.
Read more at The Tennessean.