HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - The Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is the focal point of the ongoing shutdown showdown in Washington. Several key aspects of the new law will take effect Tuesday, so what are local physicians saying about its potential impact on them and their patients?
It's survived two heated elections, one milestone Supreme Court decision, and by all indications the threat of a government shutdown. But the ultimate test for Obamacare may be the verdict of America's medical community.
"A lot of this is an unknown," said Dr. Jon Krichev, a family physician who runs his own practice in Hampton Cove. "With this now massive change that could happen, and then the increased involvement of non-physicians in what we're doing, it makes you want to throw up your hands and say 'What's next?"
Dr. Krichev started his practice eight years ago, laying the groundwork for a lifelong dream of helping others in need. But Krichev said that vision is now more than a bit foggy due to what he calls mass uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act. Some of the main elements that will go live Tuesday include the establishment of new independent payment advisory boards that will oversee the work of family physicians like Krichev.
"If we have people who are non-physicians who are looking and saying 'Well, if we just cut this or cut that, we'll save money'. There's always going to be that worry, is that going to take my ability to do what's right for the patient?"
Dr. Krichev said he's withholding judgment on Obamacare for now, but tells us he does support some of the minor elements that have already been implemented, such as a provision that allows children to stay on their parents health insurance plans until the age of 25. However, he says it's the parts that are about to take effect that could make or break the health care industry.
"We have people arguing that the new law is going to drive up costs, and the other side is going to say the new law will drive down costs. I don't think we know that yet, and I don't think we have a way to know that. If costs rise, whether there's a penalty or not, fewer people are going to buy insurance, which is the exact opposite of what the law intended to do."
Even if there is a federal government shutdown, many of the main components of Obamacare will proceed as scheduled. People who are currently uninsured will still be able to start shopping for subsidized plans Tuesday. The mandate for individual coverage that takes effect on January 1st remains in place at this time.