Affordable Care Act

Apr 28, 2014 10:42 PM by LiLi Tan, KSBY News

Influx of newly insured impacting doctors

Some local doctors are seeing a spike in patient visits after the Affordable Care Act took effect.

For Community Health Centers, they're seeing a 7 percent increase in appointments across their network. CHC doctors say they've seen more like a 10-to-20 percent increase, depending on the location.

"We were expecting some increase, but this is more than we expected," said Dr. John Khan-Variba, medical director and pediatrician for Community Health Centers. "It feels good to have patients come who had not been able to access our health system before."

Dr. Khan says people who delayed treatment previously are coming in for preventative treatment now that they are covered, as well as treating existing illnesses they would have previously gone to the emergency room for.

In California, more than 3 million people enrolled in health insurance or Medi-Cal by mid-April.

The number of uninsured CHC patients decreased by 11 percent from 2013 to 2014. However, CHC's communications specialist says that number is skewed because undocumented patients who don't qualify for the Affordable Care Act are counted, and the number of uninsured patients varies greatly from site to site. In Grover Beach, more than 60 percent of their patients were uninsured in 2013; now, it's less than 20 percent.

Doctors say they prepared for the influx by hiring some new doctors and increasing appointment hours, but moving forward they still need additional doctors to accommodate new patients. However, Dr. Khan says a combination of high cost of living on the Central Coast and low reimbursement rates has made it difficult to attract doctors to the area.

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