Whenever you write anything about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or what is referred most often to as Obamacare, there always seems to be criticism and a “lively” debate.
I must admit that much of the negativity is valid, but being able to provide health care to a wider range of people, including those who in the past were turned down because of pre-existing conditions, is a noble concept.
Although it’s still early and the pros and cons may not have been fully sorted out, it seems that there may be at least one place in which Obamacare is improving existing medical situations and care for individuals.
Chuck Bongiovanni, CEO of CarePatrol, a company that advises families on senior referral and placement, believes that he is seeing indications that Obamacare is making a positive impact in improving options for senior care.
“Believe it or not, we’re seeing some good things,” Bongiovanni says, “because what’s happening now in hospitals is that if the Medicare clients continue to go back to the hospital, hospitals get penalized and they’re pretty hefty penalties. So what’s happening is that the social workers are making better discharges and it’s actually helping seniors.”
He goes on to use the scenario of an 84 year-old man who had a stroke and the plan is for him to be discharged from the hospital to his 80 year-old wife, who can’t get him out of bed. After a few days at home he may develop an illness such as pneumonia, and he’ll find himself back in the hospital.
“Now the social workers seem to be taking a better look at what the senior’s support system is when they go home. If there isn’t a good support system, they’re trying to find alternatives so that they get the care they need for 30 days so that they don’t get sent back and are causing the hospital to be penalized,” Bongiovanni says.
For all of its negatives, the ACA seeks to create an environment in which hospitals are rewarded for their quality of care, not their quantity of care.
As Shelly DuBois wrote in USA Today, “Amid the uncertainty in the industry, one thread remains clear: Hospitals will, in the future, exist in a world where they are rewarded more for the quality of care than for the volume of patients they treat. As this transition occurs, hospitals must live in two worlds — one where they still earn money per procedure and another that views the treatment of patients in a more holistic way, with successful outcomes the most important measure of a hospital’s performance.”
Bongiovanni believes that at least, this part of the ACA is “a good thing for the senior because they’re getting the care they need, it’s good for the hospital because the patient will get the care they need so that they’re less likely to be readmitted, and it’s good for the family because they don’t have to worry about taking care of dad on their own. Some hospitals see it as a negative on their end but you can see the positives for the families.”
The noble path of the legislation is causing confusion and concerns for hospitals, and Bongiovanni can understand why. “Hospitals are going to get penalized if a lot of people come back, but at the same time they’re not getting admissions if less people come back; they’re just not going to be penalized,” he points out. “I think the impact of the law is the penalties. I think they’re looking at discharges a lot differently right now.”
Like many things in the ACA or Obamacare, there are many opinions and impacts to each new rule put into place. Only time will tell whether the new health care law has saved, or sunk, health care in America. But there’s no doubt that changes were needed, and if this part of the law improves quality of care for seniors, hopefully this is an example of what is right with the law.
Of course, everything regarding Obamacare is open to debate so I’d love your thoughts on this as well.
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