Physical therapists are likely to find themselves responding to patient questions about how the Affordable Care Act will affect their health care. Are you prepared to help point them to the answers they need?
Despite the government shutdown that began October 1, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) remains unaffected. But as the ACA continues to rollout major features—most recently, the marketplace system—the public remains largely uninformed.
A September 28 tracking poll from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found that as late as last month, 51% of all Americans felt that they lacked adequate information on the ACA. Most feel that current news coverage on health reform focuses more on political wrangling than on providing information, and more often than not, respondents stated that they don't know where to turn for accurate, unbiased information on the changes.
Many public uncertainties remain, according to the poll. These include worries about cost (19%), confusion about where to find an easy-to-understand, unbiased summary of the ACA (18%), a need to know how the ACA will make things better (7%%), impacts on specific groups (6%), personal/family impacts (5%), questions about insurance marketplace plans (5%), and questions about the impact on currently-held insurance (4%).
You may not need to know all the answers to these questions, but helping a patient find resources is important. The federal government has published a series of fact sheets on the ACA, and on October 1 the Kaiser Foundation released a series of consumer resources that aim to answer the most common questions.
Of course, physical therapists have plenty of questions about how ACA will affect their work. Answers can be found in APTA's "10 Things You Need to Know on October 1" guide on the Expansion of Coverage webpage.
A recently released study cites a dramatic rise in the number of children being treated for traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in emergency rooms, but the cause for the increase may be harder to pin down. Increased public awareness of concussion symptoms and treatment, however, may be one important reason behind the rise.
The study, available in the October issue of Pediatrics, found that while visits for TBI rose by 92% between 2002 and 2011, the rate of hospitalization remained relatively unchanged—about 10%. Researchers involved in the study point to a variety of possible reasons for the rise, including wider involvement in sports activities and an increased intensity of those activities by children who are generally bigger and faster than previous generations. Researchers found that skateboarding, inline skating, skiing, and sledding were the activities with the highest admission rates.
The findings also contained some good news. Because the study also showed that injury severity actually decreased as visits increased, authors theorize that the biggest reason for the rise may be due to a better-educated public, able to recognize the potential signs of concussion and aware of the need for quick treatment.
Physical therapists can access a range of information on concussion, including the advocacy work being taken on by APTA, by visiting the APTA website.
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