Preparing for the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act’s Scheduled Changes, 2010-2020

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Melissa Crossman
Melissa Crossman lives in Indianapolis with her two dogs. She enjoys cooking and volunteering in her community.
Melissa Crossman
Melissa Crossman
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The Basics of The Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act

President Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010. This bill represented nothing less than the most significant change in our medical care system since Medicare went into effect in the 1930s and Medicaid became a program in the 1960s. The law was challenged by opponents, but was ultimately upheld as constitutional by the United State Supreme Court on June 28, 2012, in the case of National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was designed to initiate an overhaul of the health insurance and health provider system for all Americans, staggered over a 10-year period from 2010 to 2020.

The entire law can be accessed on the website or the features of each year’s planned changes can be accessed and understood on a timeline noting when each law will go into effect. Essentially, the Affordable Care Act will provide or require the medical insurance of millions of Americans. Preventative care will be emphasized even as the demographics of our aging Baby Boomer population will also swell the numbers of patients requiring care.

The Current Nursing Shortage

Even without the required interventions of the Affordable Care Act, medical economists have been warning for years that the number of U.S. nurses would be inadequate to meet the needs of the growing Boomer population. Proposed “fixes” such as encouraging more nursing students through student loan deferments, allowing vocational training in high school for LPNs, higher salaries for working nurses and even immigration allowances for Filipino nurses were never enough. The number of nursing students our system can graduate is limited not by insufficient student interest, but by the lack of spaces available in nursing schools due to insufficient faculty numbers. Until we have the number of nursing professors to teach would-be nurses, our number of new nurses each years will remain static and below anticipated needs.

Alternatives to Nursing to Fill the Anticipated Demand for More Healthcare Workers

In an effort to meet the needs for trained health care workers, the government has been reconsidering faster educational tracts to a nursing degree and license. Examples of these interventions include providing high school and vocational tech educational options for students to become licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or considering military medic training as on par with this basic nursing program than can lead to a registered nurse (RN) degree with more education.

Other alternatives designed to increase the number of available caregivers involve new programs and positions to take over aspects of nursing that don’t require a nursing license. Graduates of medical assistant programs are now moving into open positions in outpatient facilities, the fastest-growing segment of the health care provider marketplace. Medical assistants have the advantage of training in both medical and clerical aspects of their positions and have associate degrees that can be the foundation upon which additional education or careers can be established.

Despite the deep divide in America regarding the ultimate success of the Affordable Care Act, all parties agree on one issue: we are in the midst of a health care provider shortage and every additional worker is a plus as the ACA changes take place.