How to talk to patients about the Affordable Care Act

Now that open enrollment for health exchanges brought by the Affordable Care Act is finally here, confusion among patients still runs high. And their most likely place to field questions is none other than their doctor's office, according to Abraham C. Whaley, co-founder and vice president of consultancy Manage My Practice.

As he wrote in a recent blog post, one key message for your staff to convey is that there will probably not be urgent, immediate action required by most of your patients, especially if they already have insurance. If they are uninsured or think they may qualify for subsidies to make insurance more affordable, you can direct them to either or their state's own exchange website.

In most cases, you'll be able to assure patients that nothing will be changing in your office related to the healthcare eform rollout. According to Whaley, a sample answer may be, "No, nothing will change at our office. It may take us a while to get acquainted with the new plans, but our current policies will remain in effect."

For some practices, however, this conversation may be more complicated. One of New Jersey's largest medical groups, for example, recently announced that it has not yet decided whether it will accept health insurance offered by state exchanges until more reimbursement rate information is available.

"Our sentiment is we want to provide care for people that need it," Robert W. Brenner, medical director of the Summit Medical Group, told the Star-Ledger on Tuesday. "The position we are taking right now is the insurance companies need to present the product to us. At this point, we need to evaluate all aspects of it. ... A lot of details remain to be seen."

The practice currently takes most commercial health plans and Medicare, but does not accept Medicaid because the reimbursement rates are too low. Brenner told the newspaper that the group would re-evaluate taking Medicaid "once the rates are more reasonable."

To learn more:
- see the post from Manage My Practice
- read the article from the Star-Ledger

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