Academic Paper on the Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Nursing and Medical Care Costs
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed as an effort to improve the quality of health care while reducing costs. Such an effort has implications for both the nursing profession and the issue of medical care costs. In the sections below, the current and future impact on both of these is discussed. This discussion suggests that an emphasis on prevention of illness may be the connecting link between the empowerment of nurses and the simultaneous improvement of health care quality and reduction of costs.
Effects of the ACA on Nursing
By promoting preventative care and higher quality care the ACA leads to significant empowerment for all nursing professionals, and especially Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), because these highly qualified health care professionals have for a long time been championing the effort to improve in these areas. These include nurse practitioners as well as clinical nurse specialists and certified nurse midwives). From their perspective, the specific policy changes associated with the ACA lead to circumstances that give rise to more professional opportunities. The demand for APRNs is increased by the establishment of community health programs and preventative care initiatives, because they are the most appropriate people to fill leadership positions in the implementation of such efforts.
The current empowerment of APRNs discussed by Lathrop and Hodnicki has meaningful implications for the development of American health care in general. Historically nursing professionals needed to assert their importance as crucial actors in medicine. The sophistication of modern 21st century medicine a significant amount of research supports the effectiveness of preventative medicine even though its value is difficult to measure. For example, one of the components of the ACA was the creation of a Community Based Collaborative Care Network Program which consists of a network of health care professionals who must design integrated health care services for groups of low income citizens and those without insurance (Riley, Berenson, and Dermody).Grants are offered to fund such endeavors, and these create more demand and opportunity for APRNs.
In the future, it can be expected that APRNs and nursing professionals at all levels will continue to be in greater demand because the ACA legislation promotes funding for initiatives involving the work they do. This increased opportunity for nursing professionals is also reflected in efforts pertaining to nursing education. The ACA calls for the funding of grants to help undergraduate nursing students as well, including the Nursing Student Loan Program and the Nursing Workforce Diversity Program in order to accommodate the increased demand for their expertise (Loyola University New Orleans). Thus, because the values of the ACA are consistent with the values of nursing in general, it can be expected that in the near future the role of the profession will be more important and appreciated than ever.
Effects of the ACA on Medical Care Costs
The cost of medical care is one of the primary factors that inspired health care reform efforts implemented by the Obama Administration. This reform was preceded by decades of rising health care costs. Currently, as the ACA shifts the focus to decreasing health care costs, the incentive to focus on prevention is greater. In the years between 2010 and 2013 the growth of health care spending is estimated at 1.3%, which is the lowest in any three-year period since 1965. If a free market approach creates a situation in which there is money to be made when people get sick, a more ‘socialized’ approach can be expected to have the opposite effect. That is to say, an approach to health care coordinated by the government makes it more economically expedient to prevent illness than to treat it after it happens (Executive Office of the President of the United States).
The way health care reform is expected to affect the future of medical care costs is also quite meaningful. It is expected that Medicare reform in particular will equate to lower costs coupled with higher quality service (Executive Office of the President of the United States, 2013). These improvements will lead to ‘spillover’ effects that can improve wages and the quality of living in the United States while reducing long-term deficits. But most importantly, health care outcomes are improved while costs are reduced. This win-win situation is made possible by the emphasis on prevention of illness, which reduces health care costs for obvious reasons while keeping people well.
Executive Office of the President of the United States. Trends in health care cost growth and the role of the Affordable Care Act.
Lathrop, B., & Hodnicki, D. R. The Affordable Care Act: Primary care and the doctor of nursing practice nurse. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 19(2), 74.
Loyola University New Orleans. Nurse leadership and the Affordable Care Act.
Riley, Berenson, and Dermody. How the Affordable Care Act supports a high performance safety net.