Naperville-based Edward Hospital said Tuesday it has formed a joint venture with the fourth-largest doctors group in the Chicago area.As the health care law winds its way through the courts, its effects are already profound. Each day we see the consolidation of the health care "market" as doctors groups are swallowed whole by large hospital systems as part of the "Accountable Care" organizational construct mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Now we see the west side of the Chicago suburbs are fortified.
The venture, which would treat as many as 100,000 patients, initially will focus on health maintenance organization patients of both the 309-bed hospital and Downers Grove-based DuPage Medical Group, which has 320 doctors and revenue of $363 million in 2010, according to Crain's annual ranking of physicians groups.
For patients, there's little to notice at the present time since very little immediate change to care delivery will occur. (This was the intention.) But as payment screws tighten to these newly-agglutinated partners and the newly-insured flood the system in the years ahead, there still will be a woeful lack of physicians to absorb the influx of patients. Access to care for patients with insurance will remain challenging - likely more so.
The shortage of specialists continues, too. Our newly-minted specialists from the current training pool are finding it hard to find jobs because of these consolidations. Newly-formed large groups are reluctant to add new hires as they join forces with large health care systems because of concerns they are already joining many other doctors competing for the same pool of patients already. Since their new employment contracts will likely contain productivity clauses, who in their right mind would want to hire now?
So while many are paying attention to primary care shortages, specialist shortages are likely to be even more severe going forward.
But then, specialists cost a lot of money to our health care system, don't they?
And now you know why they call it the "Affordable Care Act."