Local hospitals say they started seeing people taking advantage of their new health insurance from day one. The new health care law officially took effect on January 1st. With just over 2 million people now signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, health care officials were not expecting to see a big turn out right away, but January 1st turned out to be a busy day for hospitals. The Affordable Care Act has been a controversial topic for many across the country, but emergency rooms began seeing the effects of the law from day one. Jenny Duncan, a registered nurse, says, "We actually saw a range of patients from the very young to middle age, to old, but in fact, the younger ones said they are newly covered with insurance." Garden Park Medical Center in Gulfport has been preparing for an increased volume of patients by providing more care providers to handle milder cases.
Rick Dennie, the Director of Critical Care, says, "We have added mid-level providers to the point during the busiest times, we actually have three mid-level providers in our department and on occasion, we can see almost 150 a day now, so a lot of those are lower acuity patients that these providers are trained to see." These mid-level providers put patients through a medical screening process to determine if immediate medical attention is necessary, freeing up other doctors to handle emergency situations. Dennie also says, "Our expectation is that our volume will again increase by another eight to ten percent this year, partly due to the Affordable Care Act, but partly because our process is much better and we are seeing patients quickly." Garden Park says that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, they have already seen increases in the number of young patients with insurance. Duncan also says, "Typically, we see more middle age to upper age, elderly patients, but we did have quite an influx of younger patients that day, which was good to see." Garden Park says they try to accommodate the sickest patients first, but do their best to see everyone in a timely manner. They say the average wait time so far in January is right around five minutes for non-life threatening medical emergencies.