America, get ready. You’re about to wake up to a whole new world of healthcare. We are moving from a healthcare system of the 1950’s into a model better suited for a population of the 21st century. The old-fashioned hospital is about to be integrated into a regional system of specialized facilities that will streamline care, avoid duplication of services and deliver better outcomes. And that’s only one of many changes. Here are four more:
1. You’re going to need insurance or pay a penalty
The Affordable Care Act requires you to enroll in an insurance exchange, apply for Medicaid, or buy insurance through your employer. If you don’t, you’ll be charged a tax penalty of $95 per adult and $47.50 per child (up to $285 for a family) or 1 percent of your total income, whichever is greater – and that’s going up after 2014.
2. Your doctor will be part of a team
When you go for your medical appointment, you’ll be seen by a team of caregivers that might include a nurse practitioner, physician assistant or other highly trained caregivers. If appropriate, you’ll be able to get shared medical appointments with others who have similar conditions. Shared appointments are popular in diabetes and women’s health. You get private time with caregivers plus a chance to hear from and compare your experience with other patients.
3. You’ll be able to shop for healthcare
You’ll be able to comparison shop, and you’ll want to, because more and more of the costs of care will be borne by you, the consumer. Competition is good – but shop wisely! Look for reputable providers with experience in what you need, and who are willing to share their outcomes information. Saving money up front could cost you plenty in the long run. Complications from less-than-optimal care could require expensive follow-up procedures.
4. No more passive patients
For too long, healthcare has been something that was done to you. Now it’s going to be something you do for yourself in partnership with your doctor and caregiving team. You’ll need to monitor your food input, get exercise, and avoid tobacco. If your doctor prescribes a medication, preventive strategy, or course of treatment, you’ll want to follow it. You’ll want to do this for several reasons. One is good health, which is priceless. The other is your medical bills, more of which you’ll be paying yourself.
These four changes – and more – are coming at us. But there’s no reason to be anxious. Things are getting better. We’re all getting more realistic about the costs of healthcare and who pays them. The result will make medicine more efficient, effective and accessible to all.