Reno Providers Brace for Flood of Patients - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Reno Providers Brace for Flood of Patients

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It's 10:30 Monday morning, and Reno's Children's Health Center just off Wells Avenue is what it usually is…busy. Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Sally Weare Edney, who sees up to 34 patients a day, is giving little Abrianna is getting her 6-month checkup and shots.

Abrianna will soon be sharing her doctor's attention with a new crowd…the newly insured from the Affordable Health Care Act. Edney told us, "There's going to be a lot more people looking for medical providers to take care of them."

While the clock is ticking for hundreds of thousands of uninsured Nevadans, it's also ticking for Sally Edney. She doesn't think her clinic is big enough. As she told us, "I may have to move to a bigger one….I am serious, yeah."

The Affordable Care Act offers 32 million Americans new access to health insurance, but Nevada has long been experiencing a primary physician shortage. The U.S. overall is already short more than 9,000 primary care physicians, a that's a number that's expected to rise to a whopping 65,800 by 2025.

Here in Nevada, over half a million people now uninsured in the state could become new patients, and there will be plenty of people signing up in the Truckee Meadows. The Census Bureau says about 16.5% of the Reno-Sparks population did not have health insurance coverage during 2012.

At the HAWC Community Health Center on Wells, Nurse Practitioner Taylor Ann Drew sees up to 30 patients a day. She wonders how she'll handle "more patients. Patients that haven't been seeking medical care. They'll be coming here to get medical care."

These nurse practitioners could be the big solution to the primary care shortage. They are registered nurses with graduate degrees who can do most everything a family doctor can, especially after a new Nevada law was signed in July. Edney called it "a new law that allows nurse practitioners to practice independently without a collaborative physician."

The nurse practitioners will do their best. But the alarming thing to keep in mind is that while Obamacare will guarantee insurance coverage for those who sign up, it will not guarantee access. And getting that access may be the toughest part. Taylor Ann Drew told us, "Patients can have a card, that's great. But the card isn't necessarily going to grant them access to come see somebody, because we have more people to be able to see those patients. So as nurse practitioners, we'll be able to fill that gap."

For now, they're gearing up for a challenge come January. It's Sally and Taylor and their colleagues who will have to help make it all work.

-written by John Potter

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