LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3.com) — At least 13,000 Nevadans have health coverage on Jan. 1 under the Affordable Care Act.
UMC Hospital takes in all patients, but now that people have acquired benefits through Nevada's health exchange, hospital leaders are waiting to see the effects. For thousands, the emergency room has been their main source of medical care for decades.
"The more the population has access to health care and funding for that, they will use the emergency department. There's not enough primary care to care for that large amount of patients," said Dr. J.D. McCourt, UMC's Medical Director for the Adult Emergency Department.
McCourt says he does expect more newly insured patients will be arriving this year, but he also says many Nevadans will also experience healthcare in a new way.
"We're always open to care for anyone with any complaints; however, preventive medicine is definitely the way to go. It's cheaper and it’s better for the patient," McCourt said.
And as people see primary care doctors, McCourt says their conditions may require hospitalization, which will result in more patients, perhaps at UMC.
Nevadans who enrolled by last month's deadline will be the first to utilize coverage offered through the exchange, but the enrollment period lasts through March 31 for people to avoid federal fines for not having health insurance.
For those who are able to access their benefits now, the initial ride may be bumpy as many don't even have their insurance cards yet. The exchange urges people to call the carrier for verification of enrollment, and to get the proper insurance card number for any treatment.
Meanwhile, under the Affordable Care Act, pharmacies will have to accept insurance purchased through the exchange.
Since cards may not have been received by patients, at least one major drugstore – Walgreens -- will accommodate patients through the end of the month with one month supply of prescriptions during this transition period.