Health care reform impact on local hospitals uncertain

NewsChannel 10

Amarillo, Texas - It's a whole new world for hospitals, insurance providers, and patients, health care reform now on the horizon in the United States.

There is no doubt about it, the Affordable Care Act will have an impact on Texas, the nation's leader in the uninsured, with over 6 million people without coverage.

But as to the extent of those effects, only time will tell.

Speculation is running wild, as health care providers and insurance companies try to predict the effects of the new system.

While concerns of longer emergency room waits and patient overloads for primary practice doctors swirl about, Baptist Saint Anthony's Hospital in Amarillo says they don't expect to see much of a difference.

Mary Barlow explains, "It will be the very same as it's always been here. We will always take care of the people who come here at probably one of the most vulnerable times in their lives."

She adds, regardless of their ability to pay.

The hospital's projections show a possible 8 - 10% increase in admissions, when the Affordable Care Act kicks in.

That's about 2,000 extra patients per year, a number they say they can easily manage.

Barlow says, "A person who requires hospitalization is going to be hospitalized no matter what. Someone may have a procedure they put off for awhile that's not chronic or acute at that moment, but ultimately they are going to come here anyway."

The increasing number of insured patients could mean better reimbursements for the hospital.

But the insurance companies who will also see an increase in customers, will now also face hefty new fees.

Jeff Drozda with the Association of Health Plans explains, "As we look at the tax assessment placed on the insurance companies, it's going to be about 60 to 90 billion dollars over a 10 year time frame."

These are costs that will likely be passed on to the consumer.

However, health care providers and insurance companies won't know the real outcome until the new provisions go into effect in 2014.