What does the Affordable Care Act mean for you, as a patient?

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) affects most everyone in Louisiana one way or another; we wanted to break down what it meant for you as a patient.

In 2014, around 600,000 people in Louisiana will have health insurance who never had it before. These are people who don't qualify for government help, but can't afford insurance on their own. Add to that people who had been turned down because of a pre-existing condition.

Chris Ames is in the hospital. HE is scheduled for surgery because of a rare disease that is attacking his lungs. The problem is, he and his wife Jennifer do not know how they're going to pay for it. They can't afford insurance.

"I take home $2100 a month and I have $150,000 in bills sitting on my counter at home," said Jennifer Ames. She earns too much to qualify for Medicaid.

After Chris lost his job, Jennifer tried to get him on her work policy, but couldn't because Chris had a pre-existing condition. Chris thinks a law that would give people like him access to health insurance is a good thing. "I just feel like it's something we should have. We pay so much into taxes every year," said Chris.

For most people who need to see the doctor, the affect of the new healthcare law won't be quite as dramatic. It could make it even harder to get an appointment. There is already a nationwide shortage of primary care doctors and Baton Rouge is no exception; adding more patients to the mix is not going to help.

"If you're talking about a physician who has 3,000 patients assigned to them, they can't move from 3,000 to 4,000 unless they change the way they have their practice set up," said Scott Wester, CEO of Our Lady of the Lake Hospital.

While Wester says hospitals like his actively recruit new primary care doctors, it won't be enough to fill the need. "It's going to be a combination of not only physician manpower, but also what we call extender-ed manpower, nurse practitioners-physician assistants," said Wester.

That is the future Chris Ames is concerned about now. X-rays show his lungs are so far gone; eventually he will need a transplant. For him, the chance to have health insurance can't come too soon. "Some of us don't have time to sit around and wait," said Chris.

Timing is everything. Barring any changes, it will be 2014 before people with pre-existing conditions are guaranteed health insurance with no caps.

As for how it affects Medicaid, more people will be eligible for insurance through Medicaid. What is not clear is how it will happen since state's put money into the program and Thursday's ruling appears to give them the option to opt out.

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