The Affordable Care Act: Still unpopular with physicians after all these years.

ACAOne of the predictions we’ve heard about the admittedly controversial Affordable Care Act is that acceptance of it will grow over time, as people become more familiar and comfortable with its provisions.

So far at least, we haven’t seen this happening in the public polling about the law.

And now we’re seeing similar dynamics playing out in the all-important physician community.

In fact, the latest findings are that the ACA is more unpopular than ever, if the results of a new survey of physicians are to be believed.

The survey was conducted in January 2015 by LocumTenens, a physician staffing firm and online job board.

The headline finding must be this:  While ~44% of the survey respondents reported that they had been opposed to the Affordable Care Act legislation prior to its implementation, now ~58% are opposed to it after a year of working under the confines of the law.

R. Shane Jackson, president of LocumTenens, had this to say about the key finding:

“After a year in the trenches trying to help patients understand this legislation, physicians by and large feel the law hasn’t done a lot to help improve healthcare.”

More specifically, Jackson noted,

“Physicians feel the ACA has made serving patients and running their businesses much harder.  A year after implantation – and years after the political debate started – doctors are still passionate about how this law should have been designed, and would still like to see changes made that will make it simpler for their staffs and patients to understand.”

Among the negatives physicians see with the current ACA law are these aspects:

  • Lower reimbursement rates to hospitals and physicians
  • Increased compliance burdens for physician practices
  • Higher patient debt due to high-deductible plans

ACA healcare premium changesAlso faulted are the insurance companies for not doing more to inform newly insured patients about their premiums, deductibles and coverage limits.

It isn’t all poor marks for the ACA, however.  Physicians in the LocumTenens survey do credit the legislation for a number of positive outcomes including:

  • Helping more people gain access to healthcare
  • Expanding coverage to more children and young adults
  • Eliminating coverage denials due to pre-existing health conditions
  • Placing more focus on preventive healthcare measures
  • Decreasing the costs of end-of-life care

So what is the “net-net” on all of this?

Two-thirds of the physician respondents want the ACA law repealed (and three-fourths think it will be, incidentally).  But physicians want it replaced by something else that retains the positive aspects of the ACA while doing away with the negatives.

That’s the same message we’ve been hearing from politicians, too.  So the bigger question is how to unscramble the ACA egg … and whether anything actually better can come out of the effort.

Would anyone care to weigh in with their thoughts and ideas in this never-ending debate?

The Continuing Evolution of Consumer Healthcare Information-Gathering Practices

health informationWith the interminable discussion and disagreement about the (so-called) Affordable Care Act we’ve been having lately, it’s easy to lose sight of some of the other important developments in health care and related behavioral trends.

One of them is how people are evolving in the way they obtain their health information.  A new consumer survey helps provide insights.

The survey, conducted among nearly 1,100 Americans age 18 or older by healthcare communications consulting firms Makovsky Health and Kelton Global, shows that U.S. adults visit a physician three times per year, on average.  That’s not much different from what previous research shows.

At the same time, however, American consumers now spend an average of over 50 hours per year researching health information on the Internet.  And they’re accessing such information all over the place – from health-oriented websites to social media. 

WebMD continues to have pride of place among healthcare online resources:

  • WebMD:  ~53% of adults access during the year
  • Wikipedia:  ~22%
  • Health magazine websites:  ~19%
  • Advocacy group websites:  ~16%
  • YouTube videos:  ~10%
  • Facebook:  ~10%
  • Blogs:  ~10%
  • Pharmaceutical company websites:  ~9%

Because health subject matters can be rather complicated or detailed, one would suspect that most people might do their research using a PC rather than devices with less screen-viewing or printing capabilities.  And this research bears that out:

  • ~83% use PCs the most to find health information online
  • ~11% use tablets the most
  • ~6% use smartphones the most

[However, tablet usage has grown from just 4% in the 2012 survey, while PCs have declined by a similar margin.]

The influence of consumers’ own doctors remains as strong as ever.  When asked what would motivate consumers to visit a pharmaceutical company’s website for information, the survey respondents cited physicians over any other motivational influence:

  • Physicians:  ~42% of respondents would be motivated by this source
  • News articles:  ~33% would be motivated
  • TV advertising:  ~25%
  • Drug discount card:  ~14%
  • Magazine advertising:  ~13%
  • Web/online advertising:  ~11%
  • Newspaper advertising:  ~9%
  • Radio advertising:  ~9%

… All of which leads one to wonder if most of the dollars being spent by pharma companies on radio, TV, magazine and web advertising are simply wasted. 

Really, this type of pharmaceutical advertising would appear to be “spray and pray” … on steroids.

Here’s a final piece of information from the Makovsky/Kelton survey that was quite revealing — perhaps even startling:  With all of the talk about the Affordable Care Act, as of the time of this survey a few months back, one-third of respondents reported that they had never spent any time researching the reforms and how they might affect them. 

… And another third indicated that they had spent less than one hour total researching the topic.

What’s wrong with that picture?