Doctors could use more info on health exchanges: study

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In a study of 479 independent doctors, 56% of those polled said they are “not at all familiar” with how state exchanges will impact their business.

Physicians don't appear to put much faith in consumer outreach, either. When asked, “Do you feel consumers have been adequately educated about how these policies will function?” a resounding 89% said no. Another 9% weren't sure, and, only 1% said they believed consumers had been adequately educated, according to the study by physician staffing firm LocumTenens.

Exchanges, established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a center piece of the law's health coverage expansion, are intended to serve as an entry point where people and small businesses can compare and purchase private health plans certified by state and federal government. They are supposed to be ready by October 1, the start of the initial open-enrollment period, and their design is expected to vary substantially

Health policy gurus are still unsure how this variability will impact care. One thing doctors are anticipating is a more crowded waiting room. Surveyed physicians predicted their patient volume will increase on average by 13.4% due to the implementation of health exchanges.

Nevertheless, given that most are unsure of how health insurance exchanges will affect their business, 35% of doctors have “no plans to make changes” due to increased patient volume starting in 2014. Twenty-six percent say they will “increase efficiency efforts” to combat the crowds, while 17% plan to “hire more advanced practice providers (NPs, PAs).”

Their inaction may also stem from uncertainty around exchange implementation. More than half (55%) of doctors do not believe health insurance exchanges will be in place by October 1st. Another 33% said they weren't sure.

This survey comes as news broke last week that the CMS has increased its ACA communications budget to $80 million. PRWeek also reported (sub req'd.) that the government agency has sent $33 million to agency Weber Shandwick to increase awareness around federal health exchanges.

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