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Medical executive says future of Affordable Care Act unclear

Insurance companies looking at alternatives to Obamacare

ALBANY — The federal Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, continues to have an unclear future for both patients and care providers, the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County heard from a local medical-care administrator on March 31.

Bruce Trickle, CEO of Albany Internal Medicine, told club members at their weekly luncheon meeting that he was neither for nor against the ACA, but his comments veered more toward a negative perception of the controversial legislation.

Over the last five to 10 years, he said, there has been a change “from what I call the practice of medicine, taking care of patients, to more of a business of medicine, which includes taking care of patients, but we have to be very attuned to what’s going on in our business world, or we just don’t survive to take care of you. It’s kind of scary to me. I’m not sure where we’re headed with the Affordable Care Act, or as we jokingly refer to it as the Unaffordable Care Act in the office.”

According to Trickler, under the law insurance companies can’t arbitrarily cancel policies but can raise rates by up to 350 percent, and “I don’t know too many small businesses that can afford that.”

As an alternative to the federal exchanges, some insurance carriers in the state such as Aetna, United Healthcare, or Humana are offering plans that have “some reasonable premiums as an alternative to Obamacare and general exchange plans,” said Trickle. “It’s advisable to check those plans out closely. Make sure it provides the physician you (want) to see and that the deductibles and co-insurance are acceptable to you.”

Albany Internal Medicine is not accepting “Obamacare plans due to business risks and it’s nothing to do with taking care of patients,” Trickle added. “We want to take care of patients, to continue to see the patients we currently are seeing who come to us for good care. But, we also are a business and we can’t afford the risk involved with some of these plans.” Many people who previously couldn’t afford insurance could end up with a premium-affordable but high-deductible plan and then be “less likely to cover their bills, and that’s a risk for a healthcare group like us.”

Another reason they decided against it, he added, is the administrative load that would be involved, which he estimated at 30 to 40 percent higher than present but with no added remuneration.

The ACA does have some good things, Trickle said, noting 100 percent coverage of preventive care visits and being able to see your physician, “though that is not always the case.”

“It’s change, but I guess we have to be accustomed to change. I’m not for or against the Affordable Care Act, but it’s got some change in it that’s going to be difficult,” said Trickle.