Predicting the effects of the Affordable Care Act on the myriad facets of the healthcare industry is no small or easy task. Nevertheless, the consequences of the monumental healthcare law are already starting to be seen in some areas, and industry analysts are examining what early data is available in order to get an idea of how the healthcare industry will change in years to come.
With regard to the sphere of medical malpractice, there are several predictions that appear to have evidential support behind them. These include an increase in medical malpractice claims as a result of an increase in insured persons and demographic changes, as well as consolidation of the healthcare industry leading to a greater liability in hospitals.
The Affordable Care Act and Medical Malpractice
Demographics and Healthcare Access
It can be said with a high degree of certainty that as the American population ages, its demand for healthcare will increase. Statistically speaking, this increase in care will also result in an increase in medical malpractice claims, especially among older patients. As obesity-related health concerns increase in the U.S., this too will result in greater use of healthcare resources, and consequently, a greater number of medical malpractice filings.
The Affordable Care Act has already increased access to healthcare, with between 7 and 8 million people signing up for insurance through the healthcare exchanges through April. This number is predicted to grow to more than 22 million in the next few years, again leading to greater demand for healthcare and as a result, medical malpractice.
One major consequence of the Affordable Care Act is the consolidation of the healthcare industry. With their large buying power, hospitals are hiring away physicians, doctors, and nurses from small practices and forming a new paradigm in hospital treatment known as the accountable care organization (ACO). This new method has significantly increased the number of healthcare personnel involved in a patient’s treatment. This care system can become disjointed, as patients must interact with so many different caretakers. This results in the patient feeling a disconnect between his or her care and those who are providing it. This new system and the disconnect it creates may result in increased malpractice claims, and will shift risk from small providers to large hospitals.