The health care waiting game
The New York Times - 07/05/2014
In our market-based system, patients can get lucrative procedures rapidly, even when there is no urgent medical need: Need a new knee, or an M.R.I., or a Botox injection? You’ll probably be on the schedule within days. But what if you’re an asthmatic whose breathing is deteriorating, or a diabetic whose medicines need adjustment, or an elderly patient who has unusual chest pain and needs a cardiology consultation? In much of the country, you can wait a week or weeks for such office appointments — or longer if you need to find a doctor who accepts your insurance plan or Medicare.
And those waits are likely to get longer as the Affordable Care Act brings tens of millions of newly insured patients into a system that is often already poorly equipped to provide basic care. “I fully expect wait times to be going up this year for Medicaid and Medicare and private insurance because we are expanding access to care, but we’re not really expanding the system of providers,” said Steven D. Pizer, a health care economist at Northeastern University in Boston.