The Affordable Care Act is a much-misunderstood piece of legislation, though it will affect almost all Americans, said Dr. Ardis Dee Hoven, president-elect of the American Medical Association.
"Only 47 percent of Americans understand how the law affects them," Hoven said Monday in her keynote address to the Rotary Club of Jacksonville at the Omni Hotel.
Hoven said in the three years since the bill was signed into law, 54 million people have received expanded preventive care, 5 million seniors have received assistance with paying for their prescription medication and 3 million people under the age of 26 have health insurance coverage because they are allowed to remain on their parents' policies.
"Thirty million previously uninsured men, women and children will gain access to affordable health care and the Medicare prescription drug 'donut hole' that costs seniors $4,000 a year will be eliminated," Hoven said.
While health care reform has so far done little to control or decrease the cost of medical care or insurance, Hoven said costs should begin to decrease "in four or five years" because of wellness programs and preventive care.
"It's going to cost more on the front end, but if we prevent illness, costs will go down," said Hoven.
The association was involved in creating the law and has a strategic plan for the future of American health care.
"We used our voice to fight for things that matter to doctors and to patients," said Hoven.
Diabetes or pre-diabetic conditions affect 100 million Americans. By 2050, some projections indicate as many as 1 in 3 Americans could be diabetic and 1 in 3 deaths are caused by cardiovascular disease, making wellness lifestyles and preventive medicine a critical need, she said.
As for the future of Medicare, Hoven said "chronic underpayment is an ongoing problem" for doctors who treat seniors covered by the program and physicians are scheduled to absorb a 26 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursements Jan. 1.
"It's a complicated payment formula. Payments have been almost flat since 2001, but costs have increased 22 percent. It's not a good business model. Some doctors can't afford to continue to treat seniors," she said.
For the first time in years, the medical profession has bipartisan support for changing the payment models, Hoven said.
"We want to create a world where doctors can spend their time with patients instead of focusing on business. It's going to take physician leadership to develop care and payment models that reward quality outcomes. I think we're moving into a better space," she said.