Doctors Anxious About SCOTUS Healthcare Decision - WSET.com - ABC13

Doctors Anxious About SCOTUS Healthcare Decision

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Reporter: Carleigh Griffeth

Lynchburg, VA- Doctors are anticipating the Supreme Court's ruling on President Obama's Healthcare law.

The decision is scheduled to come down Thursday and some doctors are worried about the future of their practices.

We spoke with some of them and they say they simply cannot afford to take on any more patients with government-paid insurance. That's because Medicare and Medicaid only pay a fraction of what doctors charge for their services. So that means doctors only get a fraction of what it really costs to run their practice.

And, they say, if the Affordable Care Act is upheld as constitutional, it could change how they practice medicine.

"Probably every doctor will be affected. And basically everybody negatively," said Dr. Gregg Albers of Light Medical Family Practice.

50% of Dr. Gregg Albers' patients are privately insured. The other half is Medicare, Medicaid, or uninsured. All of which pay only a percentage of what he charges.

"If we see a Medicaid patient, and the money we get back does not even pay for our office staff and does not pay for the doctor at all. You have to have a mix of other private insurance patients. There has to be a mix," said Dr. Albers.

There has to be a mix to make up for money essentially lost on a government-insured patient.

Private insurance pays 80 to 85% of the cost. Medicare, 50 to 60%. And Medicaid, 40%.

"To take on extra Medicaid patients, without taking on any more insurance based patients, may cause those practices to fail," said Dr. Albers.

Fail, or make some serious decisions.

"We have a certain amount of overhead that we have, and that's based mainly on our employees. The writing's on the wall that we'll probably have to cut employees because we'll have to cut overhead," said Dr. Harb Rank of Wigginton Rd Family Practice.

Either cut employees, or increase the number of patients they see.

"If we take on more patients that causes the quality of care to suffer too," said Dr. Albers.

On the eve of one of the biggest Supreme Court decisions in history, doctors can only wait, and wonder about the future of their practices.

But the Affordable Care Act might affect some doctors more than others. It could actually be a good thing for doctors and hospitals dealing with many uninsured patients. 

If the law is upheld and patients decide to take advantage of it, that could mean more income for struggling practices.

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