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Shasta County Begins Shift Toward Obamacare

Published On: Mar 26 2013 09:34:28 PM CDT   Updated On: Mar 26 2013 10:09:30 PM CDT

On Tuesday morning the Shasta County board of Supervisors approved a plan that would add 37 jobs to the Social Services Department to support the influx of applications for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The added employees will help people with their insurance applications as well as take customer service calls.

The new jobs and equipment are expected to cost about $2.2 million.

On Tuesday, Dr. Michael Jorde, a north state doctor of more than 20 years, said while the new health care policy helps more people, there are a lot of unanswered questions.

"Suddenly we have all these people who can go into the system. Who is going to provide the care?"

It's 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Dr. Jorde is busy jumping from patient to patient at Hilltop Medical Clinic in Redding.

On a busy Monday or Friday Dr. Jorde said his clinic sees between 75 and 80 patients.

"We're swamped."

When the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, goes into effect, Jorde might be getting a lot busier.

An estimated 44 million Americans will have access to health insurance.

The new plan has many asking, who will treat the new patients?

"I think it's all going to hit at one time," exclaimed Jorde.

A study out of the Journal of the American Medical Association said out of the 17,000 third-year medical students surveyed, only about 20 percent were planning to be a primary care doctor.

The reasons for medical students tending to special in different health care fields varies, but one reason is there is a significant amount of more money to be made in specializing.

Shasta County Health and Human Services officials said come 2014 more than 15,000 people will be eligible for the new health care plan.

Over a five-year period a little more than 10,000 people are expected to apply, but that's only counting those who are below the poverty line.

Dr. Jorde said there are a lot of unknowns right now but the county will have to get creative to provide an adequate level of care.

"We will have to design primary care facilities, something like Shasta Community Health Center, or private family practice groups."

Another possibility is to have more physician assistants administer care.

Ultimately Dr. Jorde said while more care is good, Shasta County will have to step up their game.

He said there needs to be more incentives for doctors to want to work in the rural area and the public needs to be aware.

"If you have medical problems get them treated early so you don't end up with a pneumonia or in the hospital. I think now is the time where we need to be smart."

Officials with Shasta County said starting in April, there will be meetings to discuss strategies for implementing new health insurance policies in the county.