Health care for all. That's what President Barack Obama's reelection means to the more than 40 million Americans who either do not have health insurance or do not have enough. Now, the Affordable Care Act will move quickly toward full implementation in 2014, bringing comfort and access to healing for most people in this country -- especially the poor, the disenfranchised and the vulnerable.
This act is an important milestone for a nation that is "rebuilding" and reenergizing to secure its leadership position as the greatest nation on Earth. Access to health care should produce healthier citizens -- and a country of healthier citizens enhances our ability to thrive and compete more effectively in the global economy.
As we imagine a nation whose entire citizenry can now begin to journey safely toward health, we also have to wonder how the health care industry will meet the needs of the additional people seeking care. It is well documented that there is a shortage of primary care physicians -- specialists in pediatrics, general internal medicine, family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology and general surgery. These are the doctors who see patients first and coordinate a plan of care for optimal health outcomes.
We are fortunate President Obama is acutely aware of this, and thanks to his signature domestic policy achievement, it will be easier -- over time -- to address this "workforce disparity" by providing incentives for young doctors and health care providers to seek training in these critical fields. Initiatives such as deferring student loan debt for medical education, providing necessary pay increases for primary care providers and expanding the National Health Service Corp will be significant steps in overcoming the shortage of primary care physicians.
At Meharry Medical College, we specialize in training primary care physicians who care for underserved patients. The Affordable Care Act offers us an opportunity to introduce more young physicians to primary care and continue to expand our training of doctors who understand the specific challenges of caring for poor patients. This will be a vital area of focus as we see more lower-income and uninsured and underinsured people seeking care. The Act also will allow our alumni, who care for indigent patients across the nation, to offer more services to more people -- which will enhance our country's continuum of care and create healthier Americans.
In the new Affordable Care Act environment, academic health science centers, like Meharry, will be able to increase their capacity to train and educate health care providers. They also will have the ability to delve deeper into research, seeking cures and finding more solutions to prevent and cure disease. The health provider sector will continue to expand as the need for more nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians assistants and other allied health professionals grows. The industry itself will look for ways to cut costs while maximizing service delivery and profit margins. Finally, adding health insurance exchanges to the mix will foster increased competition and market growth, bringing benefit to everyone.
This is not to say that the Affordable Care Act solves all of our problems. No legislation is perfect. But the President nailed the Affordable Care Act with the "80/20" rule. Twenty percent of the Act's measures will need adjustments, compromises or "tweaking" in both the near- and far-term. These changes include additional measures to control health care costs, the removal of duplicative regulations and a strategy to lessen the onerous financial burden likely to be experienced by health care providers, particularly those staffing "safety net" and teaching hospitals who care for the poorest and the sickest among us.
But 80 percent of the bill solves critical health care problems that have plagued our nation for decades. Increased access to health care is imperative for America and will ultimately be a catalyst for growth in all sectors in the health care industry.
Our new, healthier future would not be imaginable without the President's reelection and the preservation of the Affordable Care Act. Now we can get to work to create a healthier America.