As the United States government ends its 35th day of shutdown and calls for a three-week temporary halt, the effects of its overgrowing issues have now started affecting the daily life of individuals. The latest set of professionals to face the worsening brunt of it all is the private healthcare sector.
According to a report by InCrowd – which is considered a pioneer of real-time market intelligence platform for life sciences, it is the US healthcare system which is seeing deteriorating conditions throughout the country. In the report, it is suggested that 74% of Primary Care Physicians have reported that their patients are affected by the shutdown.
Due to this – in a list of many firsts – patients who require urgent or constant care are now seeking fundraising options to be able to maintain or go through lifesaving procedures. The move by patients comes after assurances by the federal government that critical elements of the US healthcare system will remain intact showed no respite.
On the flipside, the physicians and the private healthcare sector continue walking on a tightrope, as the shutdown is delaying Medicare reimbursements for healthcare practitioners. It has thus, caused a major upset amongst the many in the sector who have now had to juggle between their Hippocratic Oath and their means to survive in the flailing economy.
Let’s take a look at it in more detail.
What it means for the private healthcare sector and their patients
For starters, it means that the health sector will have no place to grow as clinicians report that there’s a severe loss of patients due to the loss of benefits and limited finances.
According to the InCrowd report, it was further reported that 58 percent of US clinicians –which includes primary care physicians (PCPs), registered nurses (RNs), and physician assistants (PAs) have been affected severely by the shutdown. There have been several reports which say that the patient impact was even higher, with 74% of physicians stating that patients have been affected, compared to PAs (55%) and RNs (51%). It also revealed that over third of respondents (35%) also reported that a notable portion of their patients have been affected, while 23% reported that at least a few patients have been affected.
In such a situation, the delay of finances adding up with the loss of patients means that the private healthcare sector will not be able to sustain itself any longer until the longest shutdown in US history doesn’t end completely instead of a 3-week halt put forward by President Donald Trump.
However, it seems even before a solution could be reached for this specific sector, its effects have already started to show as more practitioners report anxiety and mental health conditions amongst their patients.
According to the InCrowd report, 47 percent of respondents reported an onslaught of anxiety and other mental health conditions being observed in a high frequency of patients. A quarter of respondents also cited overwhelming feelings of helplessness and uncertainty around the shutdown as one of the major reasons for their growing conditions.
Despite such a situation, it seems only a handful of organizations have contingency plans in case the shutdown persists long after the temporary halt ends on February 15. Reportedly, only 15% of respondents reported that their organization is considering a contingency plan if the shutdown continues. This plan includes things such as offering continued medical care to meet patient needs even if the patient is unable to pay for them or offering payment plans. Of that 85 % of respondents from organizations without contingency plans, the majority—76%, said they have not yet discussed these plans. Nine percent said that their organizations have not dealt with enough adverse outcomes yet to incentivize planning.
What’s going on with the shutdown?
While a surprise decision by the President paves the way for Congress to quickly pass spending bills that Donald Trump will sign to restore normal operations for at least three weeks, New York Times reported that it means lawmakers have until February 15 to finish paying again the 800,000 federal workers who have been furloughed or forced to work for free for 35 days.
NY Times also reported that the President has promised to ensure that workers will be compensated for the last five weeks. “I will make sure that all employees receive their back pay very quickly or as soon as possible,” he said. “It will happen fast.”
Although the move will definitely help the stagnant shutdown, possibly millions of contractors who were affected by the partial government shutdown may miss their second paycheque if the stall doesn’t end altogether. This, in turn, could mean a worsening situation for private healthcare as the lack of income means there is no money for medical bills at the moment as these government workers seem to be joining the ranks of those Americans whose healthcare payments is a significant financial burden on their budgets.
What the near future holds
With those who have over-spilling medical bills declaring personal bankruptcy, the financial constraints are pushing many Americans to delay medical care and this means there’s cause for alarm within the healthcare sector. According to a New York Times reports, as patient access to care is already at a loss due to financial concerns, 40 percent of respondents report a high degree of issues with patients affording medicine and of dismal situations where patient avoided treatments and appointments altogether.
Due to this, the lack of proper affordable healthcare within the US has significantly put those with chronic illnesses at danger, where affording daily medication has become a mammoth task. If the situation persists, there’s a high chance the healthcare sector will suffer from more than just an economic loss, but rather a moral one.