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2012 Will Make A Big Difference In 2014 Plans

January 2, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Practice Management
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Sometime probably in late June, and then again on November 6, radiologists will learn how they need to start preparing for January 1, 2014.

In late June, the Supreme Court is expected to announce its ruling on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also known as universal health care, health care reform (by proponents), or Obamacare (by opponents). Particularly significant is the so-called individual mandate—the requirement that everyone buy health insurance or pay a penalty for not doing so.

That directive, which would greatly increase the number of Americans covered by insurance and, presumably, the number of patients seeking health care, is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2014. That’s just two years from now. Other provisions that take effect at the same time, such as expansion of Medicaid and limits on the ability of insurers to deny coverage, also seem likely to boost business for health care providers.

Regardless of the court’s decision, another date may have greater significance. On November 6, Americans will elect the entire U.S. House of Representatives, one third of the Senate, and the president.

If the Supreme Court upholds the PPACA, it’s likely to remain law even if the Republicans capture control of the House and Senate as long as Barack Obama retains control of the presidential veto pen. If the Republicans win the White House, they’d have to keep control of the House and hold two-thirds of the seats in the Senate in order to force changes to the law. Otherwise, Senate Democrats could block legislation via filibuster (or the threat of filibuster, which is how it works these days).

So, whether or not the court invalidates key provisions of the PPACA, neither Democrats nor Republicans are likely to be able to push any substitute bills through the legislative process no matter how the election turns out.

So what does that mean for you? imagingBiz took a crack at answering that question last month. The experience of Masssachusetts after it initiated universal(ish) health care beginning in 2006 indicates that staffing would be a big problem. According to Missy Lovell, compliance manager for Medical Management Professionals, Inc., in Atlanta:

It can be difficult to recruit radiologists in subspecialties—and for various locations—even now, and groups are gearing up for that even more in the future with the larger patient volumes and declining revenues. We are going to see the use of physician extenders and midlevel staff (such as nurse practioners, physician assistants, and radiology assistants) increase.

Assuming that the PPACA survives June and November relatively intact, will there be enough time to recruit staff before January 1, 2014? How would that affect the retirement plans of older radiologists? Along with the electronic health records push, will it spark mass technology upgrades?

It is definitely not too early to be thinking about those issues.

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We hope the new year has started well for you. To see how we start the year on Facebook, click here for our first 2012 post.

Related seminar: Radiology Review Course

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