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While the scheme to furnish nationalized health care struggles with its infinite complex of programs, as well as the broad public distaste for the law, an array of private-enterprise health-care systems already is at work curing ailments and saving lives as well as billions of taxpayer dollars.
A Sept. 7 Bloomberg Businessweek health report estimates $4.4 billion a year could be saved in health costs totally unrelated to federalized ObamaCare., a RAND Corp. study found. And that amount is just by patients using low-cost private-sector health facilities instead of hospital emergency rooms. Probably much more money than that will be saved by medical treatments in Urgent Care Centers, free clinics, and expanding retail and corporate health clinics. Some doctors have benefited by having a place to send non-acute patients.
Federal dollars generously have been dumped into primary health-care services to medically underserved communities and populations, including migrants, homeless, and residents in public housing for 40 years. These Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) provide a range of services. Since Obama took office, these community centers for the poor have been given $2 billion from the stimulus package. The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), the association lobbying for the FQHCs. is looking for an additional $11 billion subsidy for its 1,200 centers for its activities from 2011 to 2014.
NACHC claimed in a June 28 press release it would reduce public spending for emergency room treatments by $24 billion in avoidable hospital-based care. But private-sector clinics and health centers—rather than those Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)—probably will be helping make possibly even greater savings for Americans.
The General Accountability Office (GAO) found that 72 percent of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) had costs above government payment limits. NACHC complained of the problem, so typical of living under government-dictated pricing, when it grumbled that “the majority of health centers, and indeed patients who rely on them for care, are negatively impacted by this outdated payment mechanism.”
A prime example of private enterprise at work in the health field is Urgent Care Centers. They provide walk-in, extended-hour access for acute illness and injury care that is either beyond the scope or availability of the typical primary care practice or retail clinic. Approximately 8,500 urgent care centers are scattered around the country. “Urgent Care Centers have more than 100 million visits a year, with 85 percent of the Centers open 7 days a week. More than 85 percent of the Centers have at least one physician on site at all times.
The mean reimbursement per patient visit for urgent care is $103. The urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA) was founded in 2004 and “represents 3,200 professionals working in urgent care,” according to Lou Ellen Horwitz, the association’s executive director. Wait times to see a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant are said to be less than 15 minutes for 17 percent of the patients, between 15 and 45 minutes for 67 percent of patients.
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