Bracing For Obamacare, 1 In 3 Health Facilities Adding Doctors

Changing Employment Picture Emerging for Healthcare Professionals

Facing an influx of newly insured patients under the Affordable Care Act and a wave of demographic trends, 31 percent of health facility managers plan to increase their medical staffs, according to a new report.

The findings are the latest data from a nationwide survey of hospitals and medical groups by Staff Care, a subsidiary of health care staffing firm AMN Healthcare (AHS). The survey polled 230 hospital and medical group managers.

More than 16 percent of these health facility managers said they would add more nurse practitioners and physician assistants and more than 7 percent said they would turn to temporary staffing of doctors, known as “locum tenens physicians.”

“Based on patient demographics alone, demand for medical services is growing and the ACA is extra yeast that is going to make the bread rise,” said Sean Ebner, president of Staff Care, in a statement to Forbes. “Whether 30 million people obtain health insurance through the ACA, or 15 million, demand for doctors and other clinicians is going to spike,  and many healthcare facilities are gearing up for it by adding staff.”

Under the health law, more Americans are accessing subsidized private health insurance on the marketplaces known as exchanges while others are accessing medical coverage through an expanded Medicaid health insurance program for the poor.

The survey is the latest to show a changing employment picture for health care professionals. Hospitals, clinics and medical groups are hiring primary care professionals like nurse practitioners, physician assistants and medical assistants as well as doctors in the primary care fields of pediatrics, obstetrics, internal medicine and family medicine.

New models of health care delivery such as patient-centered medical homes and accountable care organizations emphasize the use of primary care health professionals to more aggressively ensure patients are seeking regular care, taking their medicines and following their diets all in the name of keeping them out of the more expensive care setting like hospitals.  All major insurance carriers like Aetna Aetna (AET), Cigna Cigna (CI), Humana Humana (HUM), UnitedHealth Group UnitedHealth Group (UNH) and Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans are contracting more and more with ACOs and patient centered medical homes while moving away from paying providers on a fee for service basis.

There are many other reasons staffing will be critical in the future, Staff Care executives say.

“The United States is in the midst of an emerging physician shortage that is expected to be exacerbated by a growing and aging population, increased access to health insurance resulting from the Affordable Care Act, the imminent retirement of many older physicians and an evolution in physician practice styles in which physicians are working fewer hours,” Staff Care said in its 2014 report on temporary physician staffing trends released this week.

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