With the continued rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there are a few things we know for sure. Big changes are coming to health care. They will impact us and our patients. And this is another one of those times we can be glad we’re members of a strong union, working under union contracts that protect us and guarantee us a voice in how these changes play out.
There are a lot of predictions out there about the ACA’s impact, but more questions than answers right now. Still, we can already see certain trends, and make some educated assumptions based on the law itself. The ACA encourages more preventive care, more integrated care, and more care delivery at home rather than in the hospital. It’s an open question as to how many new patients we’ll see. Some predict a flood, some a trickle. We do know that California is one of the states actively reaching out to the uninsured to encourage them to get coverage, and Covered California, our state’s health insurance exchange, had already signed up over 16,000 families in the first week after opening on October 1. Any influx of new patients could further strain the physician shortage and create further pressures on safe staffing ratios.
So what are we doing as a union to prepare? Denise Duncan, our Vice President, along with Eric Robles, our Director of Legislative and Political Affairs, have put together a presentation that gives a good overview of the ACA, which they’ll be taking around to our affiliates. We’ve been pushing state legislation to expand the scope of practice for many of our classifications, including NPs, PAs, ODs, CNMs and others. We’ve already been successful on a bill allowing Clinical Lab Scientists to do more laboratory testing. As strains on the system grow, we expect to be able to move more of these bills into law.
We have strong contracts with mechanisms for participating in patient care decisions at our hospitals. It will be more important than ever to step up and enforce them. We’ll also need to be vigilant about protecting safe staffing. All of us will need to stay informed and involved, and reach out to our affiliate officers and stewards. We’ll get through this together, as we always do, through unity and collective action. This is why we have a union.
Ken Deitz, RN