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Obamacare to pose problems for doctors, said health care professionals
By: Melissa Gundersen
EL PASO, Texas -- Now that people are going online and shopping for health insurance, staffs at doctors' offices are bracing themselves for some major changes.
Brisa Villalobos works at Mountain West Family Health Centers. It's a medical practice that has four locations in El Paso, but only one physician. She said once Jan.1 hits, and most people are insured, they should see a spike in patients. She said that isn't necessarily a good thing, though.
"What happens when you have to see a large volume of patients as a provider is that the quality of care suffers," said Villalobos.
She said doctors shouldn't expect to see bigger paychecks because of the influx of patients.
"As a physician, insurances do not reimburse the way that they used to reimburse and so it becomes difficult to even break even at times," said Villalobos.
Villalobos predicts some doctors will be driven away.
"We believe that either different physicians will begin aligning themselves to form a larger group, a stronger group. But individual physicians, sole proprietors, sole practitioners may find it a bit challenging," said Villalobos.
Villalobos predicts it's a problem doctors won't be tasked with for another few years, though, because of people like Hector Meraz, who is uninsured.
"I'll probably just take the penalty," said Meraz.
If someone doesn't have insurance by next March they'll be penalized come tax time. Officials said a person would have to pay $95 per person or 1 percent of the household income, whichever is more expensive.
Meraz said he'd rather pay the fine because at the end of the year, it'll be cheaper for him.
"Usually what I do is I go over the border. I have my own doctor," said Meraz.
Meraz said he's been traveling to Juarez for medical care since he was a little boy and will continue because of the drastic price difference.
"A typical bill for an office consult would probably be about $25, maybe even cheaper," said Meraz.
Villalobos said it's a common story. She said she's heard a number of people say they will not be buying insurance this year because they either travel to Juarez for cheap medical care, or they don't want care because they don't feel they need it.
"Some people are just willing to pay the penalty depending on what they have to offset. They have to decide for themselves what's more expensive," said Villalobos.
Like many people, however, Meraz said since penalties will increase every year, he will eventually get the insurance because it will become the cheaper route. Villalobos said thats when problems for doctors may come up.