Guest Post by Ta’Rikah Jones
Unless Congress completely smothers the Affordable Care Act (ACA), its changes will shake healthcare to the foundations as millions of people gain access to insurance and expanded medical care.
The ACA’s goal is to move Americans toward a health insurance umbrella for everyone while striving to control costs and drastically alter the insurance industry. Potentially every facet of healthcare could be affected, from the doctor’s office to research labs. Changes could even reach into healthcare education.
The law will change the number of patients seeking care, how much doctors are paid and may make some med school students even more uneasy about school loans.
These are some ways the ACA may affect medical education:
1. More primary care
The law seeks to foster primary care and boosts Medicare payments to primary and internal medicine physicians significantly while lowering payments for subspecialty doctors. Also, payment and coverage for preventative care would rise along with primary care.
This could slow the drop in students who pursue primary care in medical school. For years students migrated into more lucrative subspecialties, leaving only a small percentage of students interested in general medicine.
The act also calls for expanding some scholarship and repayment programs for primary care doctors and expands nurse and primary care training.
2. More medical school openings
There are 18 medical schools in the country in the pipeline for development and accreditation, the first time that’s happened since the 1990s.
That means more room for students to fill the need for primary care physicians as the ACA propels additional patients into doctors’ offices, and offset a possible physician shortage by 2020.
3. A lot more patients
Emphasis on primary and preventative care and expanded insurance coverage should mean a flood of new patients, almost certainly in the millions.
This could easily overwhelm the medical system and doctors’ offices. While it might improve clinical training opportunities, it could also affect supervision, medical education and maybe patient care, according to U.S. News.
4. Changes in compensation
Worry about changes in physicians’ pay is understandably high among medical students who may have picked a specialty based partly on compensation. The ACA could change those calculations.
Physicians who picked subspecialties may see their income tumble below expectations. However, significantly more patients with insurance could increase what some doctors make.
5. Concern about paying off loans
Some medical students are concerned about their earning potential and ability to pay school loans as healthcare reform moves ahead. While the ACA will expand financial aid for some students, others may have to take out loans to pay for school. Paying back these loans requires finding a job after graduation.
In the past, choosing a specialty often led to a higher-paying career. An 18-year study conducted by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine from 1992 to 2010 showed that 30 percent of medical students who initially wanted to work in primary care ended up switching to a specialty that offered higher pay by graduation.
The Affordable Care Act may lead more students into pursuing primary care. Not only will more primary care physicians likely be needed, but schools may also offer additional scholarship opportunities and loan repayment options for students who study primary care.
Current medical students and any students who may be interested in medical school should study the Affordable Care Act and use this information when making decisions.