Some health systems and clinics around the country reported a flood of phone calls as newly insured patients started seeking care following the Jan. 1 effective date of their Obamacare coverage. But they said it's too soon to know the impact on demand for services.
More than 2.1 million people have signed up for coverage through the federal and state insurance exchanges, and another 3.9 million qualified for Medicaid, according to HHS. The rollout and volume of enrollments have been uneven by state.
Providers are reporting few problems with new patients despite lingering concerns that technology glitches will mean that many Americans will find out when they seek care that they don't actually have coverage.
At MemorialCare Health System in Long Beach, Calif.—a state with one of the most successful state-run exchanges—physician practices are receiving a “barrage of phone calls,” CEO Barry Arbuckle said. Most of the calls are from current patients checking to see whether their new plan is accepted. But a growing number are from new patients.
In response, MemorialCare has expanded the number of outpatient centers where it sees patients and ramped up staffing at its retail clinics and urgent-care centers. At one practice, which opened last year in a former Borders' bookstore with six physicians, it has added 10 primary-care physicians in anticipation of increased demand. MemorialCare also trained its staff members to field increased questions about which health plans are accepted and how to handle patients who may have signed up for coverage but don't yet have their cards.