By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Area doctors offices are getting backlogged as patients newly insured under the Affordable Care Act seek appointments.
“There are definitely, definitely major growing pains on all sides,” says Dr. Curtis Miyamoto, president of the Philadelphia County Medical Society and chair of radiology and oncology at Temple University Hospital.
He says they have gotten numerous calls from physicians who are inundated with questions from patients about access to insurance and levels of benefits.
He says the problem is that getting answers is difficult.
“Yesterday I was on the phone with insurance companies and spent an hour on hold just trying to speak with a representative,” he tells KYW Newsradio. “And they told me they had 300 people waiting all day long on the line to get through.”
Miyamoto says some doctors are being forced to renegotiate contracts with insurers, and in some cases may have to reschedule patients until deals can be worked out.
He notes that knowing appropriate coverage is important to prevent major medical bills for patients.
“This is resulting in delays in our ability to get patients treated,” says Miyamoto. “We are going to have to fine tune the whole system to make it work for everybody.”
Antoinette Kraus of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network says they have helped 100 people enroll in insurance under the Affordable Care Act, many of whom have yet to receive their insurance cards.
“We’re really just advising people to be patient,” she says — “don’t give up. If you have health insurance, it may take a couple of phone calls to verify your insurance, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to go to your doctor or from seeking care.”
Both Miyamoto and Kraus say they are hoping the backlog gets cleared over the next few months, but there could be an additional backlog next year when and if Gov. Tom Corbett’s “Healthy Pennsylvania” Medicaid plan (see related story) rolls out.
But in New Jersey, it seems to be business as usual, at least for now.
“This is a busy time of the year anyway,” says Larry Downs, CEO of the 8,500-member Medical Society of New Jersey, “but we’re not seeing any additional calls at this point since the rollout.”