How the Affordable Care Act Has Impacted Nursing

The Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, made some major waves when it was introduced in 2010. A new answer to the continual issue of healthcare in America, the Affordable Care Act was signed into law as a way of making sure that all American citizens had health insurance, regardless of whether they received it through their employer. The act made a huge impact on the nursing world in a variety of ways. Keep reading to learn more about just what happened to nurses, the industry, and what the outlook is for the future.

The ACA

The Affordable Care Act, and healthcare in general, was a huge controversial step along the path to healthcare equality. The bill itself is massive at 974 pages and it includes more than a few small changes to how healthcare is treated in the US. In essence, however, the law mandates that every US citizen needs to purchase health insurance if they are financially capable of doing so. However, this has come up against some resistance from people who consider this a socialist idea. The benefit, though, is that insurance companies could no longer say no to patients with preexisting conditions, like cancer. And if you aren’t able to pay for your own health insurance, you may qualify for a government subsidy of the cost for up to 95%.

So what does this have to do with nurses?

There Are Way More Patients in the System

That’s right – now that everyone is able to get insurance, they are taking advantage of the provisions enabled so that they can actually see a doctor. Previously, almost 50% of Americans lacked health insurance, which meant that half the population simply wasn’t going to the doctor at all. After all, American healthcare is incredibly expensive, especially if you’re paying out of pocket. So now that the Affordable Care Act has been set into law, that uninsured rate has dropped to about 10%. This is wonderful for people with health needs, but it certainly has put more of a strain on working nurses.

Not to mention, the patients that are coming in are in even worse health than previous patients, especially now that preexisting conditions must be covered by insurance companies. A lot of these patients may never have seen a doctor for a specific issue, only allowing it to progress over time without any kind of intervention. This means that most patients are far past any preventative treatment and are now needing serious care, including surgeries, chemotherapy, and invasive operations.

The Emergency Room is Full

It has long been a rule that an emergency room must treat a patient, regardless of their insurance status. However, this often left patients with huge bills that they have been unable to pay or that set them back financially. With Obamacare in action and with most people having insurance, there is less of a danger of going to the emergency room for care without being able to pay for treatment. This means that more and more people are going to the ER. Wait times are constantly increasing, and with the nursing shortage we are currently experiencing, things are getting pretty backed up there. All in all, patient loads for ER nurses are getting out of hand.

The Nature of Healthcare is Changing

Traditionally speaking, hospitals and have been the major source of healthcare for the majority of patients seeking treatment. These are the types of facilities that employ the most nurses, as well, to stay in line with the high demand. However, with the enactment of the ACA, there is an attempt to keep patients from going straight to the hospital for every small need. Instead, the Affordable Care Act wants patients to turn to smaller community-based facilities and clinics. This should help ease the load of ER and hospital nurses. Clinic nurses, on the other hand, will still likely feel the pressure of added patients.

Post-Obamacare Job Outlook for Nurses

Without a doubt, nursing is an industry that will continue to be on the rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses are going to be seeing an employment surge of 15% through 2026, with certain specialties seeing even higher growth. In other words, there is no better time to be a nurse than now, an era in which the majority of Americans have health insurance and are able to actually go to a facility to receive care. In addition, because there is pressure to move healthcare to more local facilities, nurses will have more options for working where they would like to be. The needs are growing all over the country, so there is certainly no shortage of positions available for qualified nurses.

Specifically, areas that will be seeing higher and higher demand in the coming years are geriatric nursing, at-home care, case management, and community health education. Ultimately, the outlook is good for nurses working under the Affordable Care Act!

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