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Doctors react to effects of Obamacare
JEFFERSON COUNTY- by Haley Bull
Chances are you've made a visit to the doctor's office in the past year. But with Obamacare, the face of medicine that was once known, may soon be changing. The new health care law directly impacts patients and doctors, who began feeling the effects years ago.
Some doctors say they see good in the concept that everyone should have access to health care, but they also say they are living in an era of uncertainty.
A 2012 survey from The Physician's Foundation indicated the new health care law has made about 3 in 5 doctors pessimistic about the future of health care in America. Under the Affordable Care Act, doctors are focusing on more than just patient care, they're dealing with the business of medicine.
"People say how is Obamacare gonna affect you, and I say well, it's just transit, it's not gonna affect us," Dr. Chad Hammett said. "Well, it has affected us."
The practice of medicine doctors once knew is rapidly changing.
"Never would I have thought that I would go from a private practice to joining a corporation," Hammett said.
He's a doctor at what had been a small medical practice in Nederland, Lifecare Family Medicine.
He said the Affordable Care Act played a role in the decision to join a larger physician's group.
"It had everything to do with it. I will say that the Affordable Care Act has caused a domino effect, per say."
He said it started with more paperwork, expensive software, meeting government reimbursement requirements and differences in payments from insurance companies. They were changes the practice couldn't sustain.
"There's a lot more stability with a corporation, and you will see small town doctors who own their own practices I think eventually in the next 5 years be nonexistent," Hammett said. "You know, you'll see more of a corporate based physician."
It isn't the only small practice to join with a larger partner.
"It's getting harder and harder to be in solo or small group practices because the cost of compliance," Dr. David Teuscher said.
He's an orthopedic surgeon at Beaumont Bone and Joint Institute.
"Doctors are looking at selling their practices to hospitals and hospital systems, not necessarily bad, it's just a reality," he said.
These doctors are dealing with the costs of keeping their doors open.
"It still costs me to run my office. It still costs me to carry my liability insurance. It still costs me to make sure I have state of the art equipment and facilities to make sure our patients are taken care of," Dr. Ray Callas said.
He is a doctor with Anesthesia Associates. When he's not practicing medicine, he's spending time looking at guidelines and laws, like Obamacare, that affect medicine.
"We love to do is take care of our patients. But if you cannot maintain an income stream to keep your doors open, then that doesn't hurt the physician only, it hurts the patients," he said.
The only thing certain thing for these doctors is uncertainty.
"We got into medicine to take care of patients, we never thought we would have to be worrying about the business side of medicine," Dr. Callas said.
The same 2012 survey from The Physician's Foundation said doctors spend more than 22 percent of their time on paperwork.
The doctors said one of the best things you can do is to take steps to stay healthy, become educated with the new health insurance law and ask your doctors any questions you might have.
The White House also released numbers Wednesday on those who signed up for health insurance through the website. The numbers were worse than expected. About 27,000 people managed to enroll for health insurance last month, and only 3,000 people in Texas signed up. The numbers reflect only the people in the 36 states, including Texas, that relied on the problem-filled federal website, www.healthcare.gov.