Posts Tagged ‘Affordable Care Act’


Recalling the Why of Health Care Reform

March 4, 2015

By Jacob Molyneux, AJN senior editor ACA ruling imageIn a brief analysis of the gradual rollout and effects so far of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at the start of this year (“The ACA Continues to Run the Gauntlet”), I reviewed a few of the issues the law was intended to address when it was passed in 2010:

* the highest per capita expenditures of any health care system in the world

* consistently worse outcomes on measures such as infant mortality rate than most other developed nations

* increasing numbers of uninsured Americans each year, to over 50 million in 2009, the year before passage of the ACA

* unsustainable annual increases in health insurance premiums and drugs costs, leading to astonishing rates of medical bankruptcy

* a Medicare reimbursement process that rewarded the volume of care provided rather than the effectiveness of that care

These worsening issues had become impossible to ignore. No one believes the ACA is a perfect law; there were too many cooks in the kitchen for that. But it’s at least a good faith attempt to address real problems, to get a framework on the table that can potentially be improved upon. Read the rest of this entry ?


AJN in January: Long-Term Complications of CHD Repair, Obesity Interventions, Nurses Planning for Retirement, More

December 29, 2014

AJN0115.Cover.OnlineAJN’s January issue is now available on our Web site. Here’s a selection of what not to miss.

Complications after cardiac repair. Nurses often encounter patients with complications that occurred years after congenital heart defect (CHD) repair. Yet many patients whose CHD was repaired in childhood have not had regular follow-up. Our CE feature, “Long-Term Outcomes After Repair of Congenital Heart Defects: Part 1,” the first in a two-part series, reviews six congenital heart defects, their repairs, and common long-term outcomes, as well as implications for nurses in both cardiac and noncardiac settings. This CE feature offers 2.5 CE credits to those who take the test that follows the article.

To further explore the topic, listen to a podcast interview with the author (this and other free podcasts are accessible via the Behind the Article podcasts page on our Web site, in our iPad app, or on iTunes). A video of an atrial septal defect device placement is also available in the iPad edition of this article.

Obesity interventions. Patients with obesity often face stigma and bias, even from the nurses who care for them. “The Obesity Epidemic, Part 2: Nursing Assessment and Intervention,” the second article in a two-part series, presents a theoretical framework to guide nursing assessment of patients with obesity and their families and reviews the most common lifestyle, pharmacologic, and surgical interventions. This CE feature offers 2.5 CE credits to those who take the test that follows the article.

Are you ready for retirement? Nurses might be retiring later than ever, but are they planning for it? “Preparing for Retirement in Uncertain Times” shows nurses how to optimize their future financial security before leaving the workforce.

Essentials for clinical instructors.Fostering Clinical Reasoning in Nursing Students,” the third article in our Teaching for Practice series on the roles of adjunct clinical faculty and preceptors, describes the importance of developing clinical reasoning skills and how instructors can help students learn them. Read the rest of this entry ?


Tightly Scripted: One NP’s Experience with Retail Clinics

November 1, 2013

By Karen Roush, MS, RN, FNP-C, AJN clinical managing editor

Retail health clinics (walk-in clinics that are in a retail setting such as a drugstore or discount department store)KarenRoush have become an effective mode of providing increased access to care for many people and a growing source of employment for nurse practitioners (NPs). Their place in the health care arena may take on even more significance as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) increases access to care for previously uninsured people.

I worked as an NP in a retail clinic for about six months while working on my PhD. I left because of concerns I had about the model of practice. It didn’t have to do with the fact that I had to mop the floor at closing time or collect the fees and cash out the “drawer” every night. Nor because I spent eight hours alone in a small windowless room tucked away in the back of a drugstore. Those aspects were not great, but they weren’t deal breakers.

What was a deal breaker was the rigid programming of my practice. The computer was in control. From the moment the patient checked in at the kiosk outside my door, every action was determined by the computer.

The organization I worked for prided itself on following evidence-based practice, but someone forgot to tell them that the patient’s history, presentation, and personal experience, as well as a clinician’s expert knowledge, are also part of the evidence. And as much as they insisted the programming was guided by evidence, it was clearly also guided by what would result in the highest level billing code.

From the moment I entered the chief complaint in the computer, it directed me on what to include in the history and what to do for the exam. The problem was that unless I filled out all the information, I couldn’t go on to the next screen. Say I have a feverish four-year-old with tonsillitis, screaming in her mother’s arms, and the computer insists I take her blood pressure. Why? Because there is strong evidence that strep throat is associated with pediatric cardiovascular disease? Nope. It’s because the more systems you include in your exam, the higher the billing code. As a result, I find myself struggling to take an unnecessary blood pressure, causing unnecessary distress for a sick toddler. But unless I put a value in the box asking for the blood pressure, I can’t proceed with the exam. Read the rest of this entry ?


They’re Not Taking Away Our Puppies (And God Help Them If They Do)

September 30, 2013

By Jacob Molyneux, AJN senior editor/blog editor

I am amazed at the amount of time being wasted on the relatively mundane matter of health care exchanges. It seems we are now facing a government shutdown; there are creepy and misleading advertisements funded by conservative billionaires like the Koch brothers in order to scare people from signing up for insurance; some red states have actually enacted laws forbidding the health care navigators from helping people understand the new system and sign up for it, and many of these states have refused to create their own exchanges to help their citizens comply with the new law.

The ACA is a law. You can’t just ignore it if it doesn’t meet your personal preferences or political ideas. Given the heated rhetoric the Republicans are trotting out about it, you’d think the government was trying to take away our puppies, instead of implementing ideas originally floated by Republicans themselves to make life a bit easier for millions of Americans whose life decisions are unduly ruled by crazy health care billing practices, byzantine insurance regulations, discrimination against those who have chronic conditions, insanely varying pricing for simple tests, and the like. Read the rest of this entry ?


One Is the Loneliest Number

September 13, 2013

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

The great Bartholdi statue, liberty enlightening the world: the gift of France to the American people.  Speculative depiction published the year before the statue was erected. In this depiction the statue faces south; it actually faces east/Wikimedia Commons

The Bartholdi statue, liberty enlightening the world: the gift of France to the American people. Speculative depiction published the year before the statue was erected. In this depiction the statue faces south; it actually faces east/Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been struck recently by how the United States sometimes seems to stand apart from other nations. This is sometimes called “American exceptionalism.”

The most obvious example of this is the recent push—temporarily put on hold due to the emergence of negotiations about the possible handover of Syrian chemical weapons to Russia—to garner support among other nations for a military strike against the Syrian government in response to its use of chemical weapons against its own people.

By now, most of us have seen the graphic videos on media outlets and they are indeed disturbing. There are signs of neurotoxicity in some of the victims: rigid posturing, seizures, and foaming at the mouth. According to news reports, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the evidence is “undeniable” and it deserves a harsh response. While several other countries and alliances have issued statements condemning the use of chemical weapons, thus far, other than France, none have come forward to agree to military action; there seems to be little likelihood of action by the United Nations (UN).

It may well be a case of apples and oranges, but another example of how the United States stands alone in comparison to other developed countries is in our approach to health care. The passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and then the Supreme Court’s upholding of its individual mandate provision, made me think this country would at last join most of the other developed nations of the world in providing for the health of its people.

But how naive I was! The resistance by opponents of the law has now moved to the states, many of which have refused to expand Medicaid or institute the insurance exchanges that are essential to providing health coverage for those currently without it and who must obtain it to meet the individual mandate. According to Kaiser Health News, a number of states are offering insurance exchanges or marketplaces where consumers not covered by employer-provided insurance can “shop” for low-cost plans and plans that fit individual health care needs and budgets (according to one report, a Minnesota resident can purchase a plan for under $100 a month). In those states which declined to set up exchanges, a federal plan will be available. Enrollment in the exchanges is set to begin October 1. Read the rest of this entry ?


48 Years of Medicare (and Counting)

July 26, 2013

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief, and Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

Next week marks Medicare’s 48th anniversary. President Lyndon Johnson signed the legislation creating Medicare on July 30, 1965, guaranteeing health coverage for the elderly. With the gradual implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA; 2010), Medicare, along with other government and private forms of health insurance, is undergoing changes, with efforts being made to rein in rising costs, combat fraud, tie quality of care to reimbursement, and so on.

PPresident Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Medicare Bill at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. Former President Harry S. Truman is seated at the table with President Johnson. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Medicare Bill. Former President Harry S. Truman is seated at the table with President Johnson. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration.

With the ACA’s date for mandated purchase of health insurance fast approaching, some states are setting up state-run health insurance exchanges to provide consumers with a standardized menu of health insurance plans in order to make it easier to purchase a plan that fits both budget and health care needs. Other states have refused to participate (see “Policy and Politics: Update on the Affordable Care Act” in the April 2013 issue of AJN); by default, citizens of those states will instead participate in federally run exchanges.

The debate over government-sponsored health insurance is not new. According to a timeline at, Congressional hearings on the topic occurred as early as 1916, with the American Medical Association (AMA) first voicing support for a proposed state health insurance program and then, in 1920, reversing its position. A government health insurance program was a key initiative of President Harry Truman, but, as with the Clinton health initiative several decades later, it didn’t go anywhere because of strong opposition from the AMA and others.

AJN covered the topic in an article (AJN articles cited in this post will be free until August 26) in the May 1958 issue after a health insurance bill was introduced in 1957 by representative Aime J. Forand of Rhode Island  (HR 9467). Yet again, one of the staunchest opponents was the AMA. In the September 1958 issue, “at the request of the American Medical Association,” AJN published an article by its general manager, explaining the AMA’s opposition.

Many commentators have pointed out that the ACA, frequently attacked and undermined by its opponents during these years of its gradual implementation, may one day be seen much as we now see Medicare, which was also widely attacked when it began—that is, the ACA may be simply taken for granted as a necessary, if complex and flawed, program that many people depend upon. Read the rest of this entry ?


The ACA and Me: A Dispatch From the Trenches

June 5, 2013
Argonauta: The Beach at My Back/ oil stick on paper, 2010 by Julianna Paradisi

Argonauta: The Beach at My Back/ oil stick on paper, 2010 by Julianna Paradisi

Julianna Paradisi, RN, OCN, writes a monthly post for this blog and works as an infusion nurse in outpatient oncology.

 “Reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it.”—Jane Wagner

By 2014, up to 30 million Americans will have gained access to health care insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As a nurse human being, I support increased access to health care. However, it is naive to believe it can be accomplished without sacrifice.

My job is a casualty of the ACA.

But let’s backtrack:

It’s more accurate (but less dramatic) to say that our country’s need of better health care delivery significantly affects my job. Most hospital nurses are familiar with Medicare tying reimbursement to patient outcomes. Further, built into the ACA is a requirement that hospitals expecting Medicare reimbursement form accountable care organizations (ACOs):

Under the proposed rule, an ACO refers to a group of providers and suppliers of services (e.g., hospitals, physicians, and others involved in patient care) that will work together to coordinate care for the patients they serve with Original Medicare (that is, those who are not in a Medicare Advantage private plan). The goal of an ACO is to deliver seamless, high quality care for Medicare beneficiaries. The ACO would be a patient-centered organization where the patient and providers are true partners in care decisions.

In other words, hospitals are expected to stop competing for Medicare dollars and work together to reduce duplication of services, decreasing costs within their communities. This is not an entirely new idea in health care. Trauma and neonatal tertiary care centers existed before I graduated from nursing school. They provide advanced health care technology to communities unable to afford them.

ACOs go beyond this concept, however, mandating “partnerships or joint ventures arrangements between hospitals and ACO professionals.”

For example, one hospital will purchase the most advanced machine for radiology, while its competitor will invest in the latest laser surgery technology. Patients needing either will be referred to the center in their community providing that service, thereby increasing its number of billable Medicare patients, decreasing cost and duplication of services. This is my understanding of some of the changes taking place in accordance with the ACA. May I remind you, I am a staff oncology nurse, not an economist.

Here’s how ACOs affect me: My job as an oncology infusion nurse is being combined with those of another hospital offering similar patient services. The short version: After 20 years of employment, along with my coworkers I will have a new employer.

I know it’s just business. I go to work, and every two weeks receive a paycheck for my hours. Every two weeks, my employer and I are even. Still, it feels a little like how I imagine if, after 20 years of marriage, your spouse informs you he is leaving for no particular reason: “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Initially, I couldn’t help but feel abandoned.

A person’s reaction to such situations is clouded by sentiment. There are concerns about possible changes to regular work routines. There is worry over potentially commuting to other work sites. The funniest one occurred while I perused the hospital gift shop, lamenting to myself about the loss of my employee discount. Then I remembered: “We don’t have an employee discount, you sentimental fool!” Feelings of rejection play tricks on memory. Read the rest of this entry ?


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