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Physician: Emergency rooms will see relief; increased wait times with Affordable Care Act
By: Gina Benitez
EL PASO, Texas -- A major part of The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, goes into effect Oct. 1.
This means big changes for the uninsured and doctors.
"The state of Texas has a major problem with uninsured citizens. We rank among the highest in the nation with the percentage of uninsured," said Dr. Michael Romano, associate dean for clinical affairs at Texas Tech's Paul L. Foster School of Medicine.
Around 5 million patients in the state will potentially qualify for health insurance exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act.
"Without the health insurance, it's very hard to access care, and typically what happens is people end up waiting until it's very severe and then going to the emergency room," Romano said.
Romano said this clogs up emergency rooms for people with actual emergencies and follow-up care becomes a challenge.
So more people with access to care they never had before is good news, right? Well, Romano said it's a double-edged sword.
"The good news is that a lot more people are going to have insurance. Unfortunately, there's such a provider shortage that there's still going to be that difficulty accessing care," said Romano.
And he does predict an initial overwhelm of patients.
"They're going to be calling up and perhaps not being able to get in because the doctor's already full, or the appointment is going to be a month or two away," Romano said.
Though he believes over time, it will all balance out to some extent.
"It's very challenging to grow new physicians, although physicians. Although I think we're doing much better about attracting and keeping them in El Paso, there are still challenges compared to other cities," Romano said.