September 30, 2013
2 min read
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Physicians prepare to answer patient questions about new insurance marketplaces

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Physicians may find themselves in the unfamiliar role of health insurance advisors when the new insurance marketplaces open Tuesday for business.

The exchanges — key components of the Affordable Care Act — are Internet-based portals for patients to compare the costs and benefits of health coverage available in their state. But physicians, regardless of their own views on the contentious issues of health care reform, will likely be seen as trusted sources of guidance as so-called Obamacare unfolds.

“I don’t believe physicians are well-informed regarding the Affordable Care Act due to the lack of meaningful summaries that have been published … ,” Jack M. Bert, MD, section editor, Business of Orthopedics, Orthopedics Today, said. “I have had a few [patients] ask me if our fees are going to decrease, and I told them I suspect they will.”

 

Jack M. Bert

The Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday its latest effort to clear the air in anticipation of patients’ thirst for information about the exchanges — more than 900 of what it calls Champions for Coverage.

“These organizations and businesses have volunteered to help Americans without affordable insurance learn more and get coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace,” the HHS announcement said.

L. Samuel Wann, MD 

L. Samuel Wann

Medical associations also are providing physicians with an increasingly diverse menu of online options. The American Medical Association offers an online fact sheet physicians can post in their offices, plus answers to common patient questions, while the American College of Physicians provides state-specific resources for physicians to help inform patient choices.

“Our health care system is embracing the ongoing changes in our payment system and will do its best to guide our patients through the confusing thicket of regulations,” L. Samuel Wann, MD, MACC, FESC, Cardiology Today, section editor, said. “It is to our potential advantage to take care of fewer uninsured patients.”

Richard L. Lindstrom, MD, Ocular Surgery News, chief medical editor, said he will keep his own views out of any discussion with patients.

“I never counsel patients on insurance policy choice, other than to say if they are over 65 that they should sign up with Medicare and if poor, Medicaid, MinnCare and now MnSure Exchange,” he said. “I’m still not sure what [the exchanges] will mean for our group in Minnesota; [they] could be good.”