When pediatrician Dr. Rosemary Fernandez Stein and her husband set out to start up a pediatric group in 1999, their goal was to provide outstanding medical service to underserved populations in Burlington, N.C.—primarily Hispanic patients who often had limited access to care.
Back then, some of the biggest concerns were keeping overhead and health care costs low, malpractice insurance, and having enough supplies for patient use. Today, Obamacare is high on Dr. Stein’s mind.
“I keep worrying about what will happen to our long-term disabled patients who are in pediatrics,” says Dr. Stein, who co-owns International Family Clinic. With an influx of 15 million Americans expected to enroll in Medicaid through the health law, Dr. Stein worries available resources could be limited for her patients.
On an average day, the practice sees about 75 to 80 patients, with 75 percent of them receiving their health coverage from Medicaid, the federal-state public health program. “It could limit the options I have for a patient with Down syndrome that also has terrible heart defects.”
Another big stressor is the diminishing choices doctors have when serving Medicaid patients. “With Medicaid and many insurers we accept, we have to get authorization for using medication that is stronger or better,” Stein says. “This requirement for extra work in filling out paperwork, doing it online, or calling an authorization center is going to push a lot of doctors to change their habits. And I don’t think that will always be in the best interest of the patients.”
Extra authorization created a dangerous situation recently when Dr. Stein had to wait a month to get approval to run a CT scan for a Medicaid patient who had complained of chronic headaches but had no family history of headaches. “We needed to rule out she didn’t have a tumor or abnormality inside her head. Medicaid had a hard time approving that, and her headaches started getting worse.”
In the end, Dr. Stein was able to get the CT scan and rule out both options, but she called the time “a dangerous waiting game.”
“I’ve lived in Canada and have friends who live there, and I have concerns our health care sector is on the path toward a single-payer system with the health law,” she says.
They have a lot more checks that have to be completed before they can go on to another medication or diagnostic—not to mention the long waiting times. That’s backwards to what’s best for the patients, but it’s the system we’re heading toward, where it will be more expensive for the government and taxpayers and more frustrating and less quality of care.
This is just another example of Obamacare shaping up to be an unworkable, unpopular, and unaffordable law for the American public. Rather than push through changes that could harm needy patients, Washington should stop the health law and create incremental reforms that put patients and their doctors in control of health care decisions. See Heritage’s patient-centered reforms and how to stop Obamacare.