The Affordable Care Act’s Impact on the Nursing Industry

By Tim Wayne

While the Affordable Care Act can be a politically divisive subject, nobody can argue that it has made a substantial difference on healthcare in the United States since its passing. Over the years, it has dropped the number of uninsured Americans from around 15 percent of all citizens to 9.2 percent — the lowest uninsured rate in the USA within the past 50 years.

For many Americans, the ACA has meant the difference between care and no care. The rising population of insured Americans entails growing demand for healthcare services, with higher coverage claims among low and middle income populations. The ACA has benefitted Americans in the lowest two-tenths of income distribution the most — a group which is far less likely to seek out medical services for non-emergency health issues.

But despite the ACA’s intention to reduce emergency visits, nearly half of healthcare workers also report an increase in ER visits. One of many reasons for the rise in ER visits has to do with the widening shortage of available physicians, leaving many patients to turn to the ER when they’re unable to find a primary care doctor.

Growing demand for healthcare professionals

The projection of future supply and demand for physicians has shifted rapidly under higher demands from previously uninsured Americans, creating an impending shortfall which is growing wider and wider.  Current research estimates that the future demand for physicians, primary care doctors, and non-primary care physicians will rise drastically up to 2020.

This has also created a widening gulf in demand of nursing professionals, which is projected to rise from 3.5 million to 3.95 million. Shortages of nurses alone have been demonstrated to impact patient outcomes, including:

  • patient satisfaction,
  • health education for patients,
  • patient recidivism,
  • medication errors,
  • and patient mortality.

How the ACA is assisting the healthcare shortage

With the shortage of physicians, medical teams will soon require flexible professionals capable of handling the responsibilities typically reserved for physicians. One possible solution to this physician shortage is to recruit and train nurse practitioners capable of handling those leadership roles. To help bridge this expanding shortage, the ACA provides financial incentives to hospitals for the purpose of training advanced practice registered nurses.

While practices already employ one or more nurse practitioners, adding more NPs can allow medical teams to treat more patients on a tighter schedule. This flexibility helps practices from a logistical perspective, and it also helps patients as they’re less likely to experience the poorer quality of care associated with rushed visits and overbooking.

According to recent DMB Financial reviews, the ACA also benefits healthcare employers by offering more than 40 provisions promoting support and innovation, including training grants, employee retention programs, student loans, and more. Some programs, such as the National Health Service Corps for example, aid both patients and healthcare professionals. For instance, offers funding for health professionals’ education through their loan repayment program in exchange for two years of service in a high-need community.

Although these conditions can make for a chaotic work environment, the ACA has created a perfect storm for healthcare professionals who want to grow their careers tackling additional responsibilities and taking on leadership opportunities. Learn more with the infographic below created for Bradley University’s Online Nursing Program.


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