The new policy cleaves hundreds of patients with chronic medical conditons (diabetes, hypertension, etc) from the appointment schedule. Unless, of course, they can suddenly come up with $150 to pay for the visit. This also doesn't include the untold numbers of patients who won't be eligible for elective or semi-urgent surgical procedures (cholecystectomies, gyne procedures, and colon cancer surgery).
So what is a patient supposed to do? The options are rather lean. You can go to a local "free clinic" in the surrounding counties. But free clinics don't pretend to be a suitable alternative for the all-encompassing health care needs of a family. For example, here's a listing of the "medical services" provided by the Lake County Free Clinic:
Diagnosis and treatment of short-term illnesses and basic medical needs
Physicals for work, school, sports, Headstart
People with more serious medical problems will be referred to other providers, including the emergency room, urgent care & private doctors. Services not available include treatment for chronic conditions (diabetes, hypertension etc.), serious injuries, STD testing, family planning or mental health.
The clinic will perform reduced cost laboratory work on an outpatient basis for those who have a requisition order from their physician, but cannot pay for the lab order.
The clinic will provide financial assistance once per calendar year for Lake County residents who do not have insurance and cannot afford to pay for a prescription. Income guidelines apply.
Not too impressive. Sounds like the medical repertoire of a typical stay at home mom. As long as your chief complaint is "scraped knees" or "ouchy finger", the Free Clinic is a marvelous option. So for the ER's of Lorain and Geauga and Lake and Ashtabula counties, get ready to be deluged by a flood of uninsured patients seeking basic medical treatments.
And I'm sure it will effect general surgeons who take ER call. Inevitably we will see more patients with symptomatic hernias and worsening biliary colic that may have previously been cared for at Metro. This isn't a revolutionary development. We take care of uninsured patients all the time. A lot of times, the patient will qualify for HCAP (hospital care assurance program) funding to help with the costs of hospitalization/operating room time. But the individual surgeon gets nothing. I usually tell patients to pay what they can (to the chagrin of our billing people). If it's a self employed contractor who doesn't have insurance because "it's too expensive" even though he drives a Ford F-250 and just got back from a Myrtle Beach vacation, we may pursue payment a little more strenuously, even sending him to collections. If it's a single mother working two jobs, I usually end up operating pro bono. Not a big deal. But it will be interesting to see what happens to the numbers of uninsured patients I deal with in the coming years given the new policy of MetroHealth.