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Health insurance exchanges baffle even doctors Posted: August 7th, 2013

By Maryalene LaPonsie

Government administered health insurance exchanges are scheduled to launch on Oct. 1, but most doctors say they will believe it when they see it.

According to physician staffing firm LocumTenens, less than 11 percent of doctors believe the exchanges will launch on time. That is just one finding from a survey demonstrating widespread skepticism and ignorance regarding the operation of insurance exchanges mandated by health reform.

Doctors unsure how health reform affects them

The LocumTenens study underscores widespread confusion among physicians regarding how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and health insurance exchanges will impact their practices.

  • 56 percent are not at all familiar with how new health reform policies will impact their business
  • 67 percent are not at all familiar with patient coverage terms that could affect their payment
  • 70 percent are not at all familiar with how the claims process will work

"As major stakeholders and advocates in this effort, physicians should be educated about how these changes impact them, their patients and prospective patients," said Shane Jackson, president and chief operating officer of LocumTenens.com, in a written statement. "Our survey shows that for the most part, they are in the dark."

However, many physicians seem to agree that the new health reform law may bring some bad news for their practice. Of those surveyed, 55 percent say they expect bad debt to increase as a result of the law.

Consumers may not be prepared either

Doctors may be confused, but they say consumers are likely to also be unsure of how the new exchanges will work. LocumTenens found 89 percent of those surveyed do not believe patients have been properly educated on new health insurance plans and policies.

A recent survey of Californians indicates physicians may be right. More than 50 percent of those surveyed at SoloHealth kiosks in the state said they do not know about health insurance exchanges. A representative of LocumTenens says consumer ignorance makes it all the more important for doctors to learn how exchanges will operate.

"Physicians' practices will play a major role in helping people who've never had access to insurance before understand how it works," said Jackson.

Despite the current lack of knowledge among consumers, physicians apparently do believe the exchanges will work to bring more people access to medical care. LocumTenens reports doctors believe their patient volume will increase by 13.4 percent because of increased access to health insurance coverage through the exchanges.