In 18 weeks the enrollment period for state–based health insurance exchanges (a key element of the 2010 Health Reform Bill) will open. Coverage through these exchanges will start 13 weeks later. The same day Medicaid coverage will be expanded in a majority of the states. All told, by January 1, 2014—less than 8 months from now—there could be 35-50 million more people with health insurance in the US. (This is more than the total population of Canada!) The implications of this on the demand, cost and quality of American healthcare are profound.
We already have immediate and well-documented problems with health professional shortages. Due to an aging population, an aging workforce of physicians and the expected onrush of newly insured, some have predicted that the US may need as many as 30,000 more physicians in just 24 months. Such a doomsday scenario comes complete with a depiction of sick people in the street asking passersby “buddy, have you got a doc?”
There is a broad consensus that one critical change can greatly relieve this problem: empower health professionals to use available technologies to efficiently expand patient care through pooled practices, patient portals and various forms of telemedicine. Private payers and employers are already embracing such a transformation. The good news is that the federal government is just starting to consider and implement similar reforms.
So, despite the significant challenges ahead, there are major opportunities for providers and health systems that utilize telemedicine technologies—if they know how to position themselves.
ATA’s upcoming Federal Telemedicine Policy Summit will explain the implications and opportunities brought about by health reform. This is an affordable fly-in event, conveniently timed to start the afternoon of June 27 and end by noon on June 28in Washington, DC. We will provide attendees with an insider briefing of these changes, late breaking developments and how you can take advantage of them. You will also hear from a number of national health policy leaders provide inside information about telemedicine. Details are available at http://www.americantelemed.org/summit
I hope to see you later this month in Washington.
Jonathan D. Linkous
Chief Executive Officer
American Telemedicine Association