Hospitals waiting to see how Affordable Care Act will affect patient volume

The insurance exchanges that opened this week will allow many people without insurance to buy coverage, but getting everyone in to see a doctor could be tricky. Central New York already has a primary care physician shortage

"That was part of what Massachusetts learned when they went to this is all of sudden there were a lot more people insured and they didn't have access to primary care because there weren't enough physicians to see the new insured population," said Crouse Hospital CEO Dr. Paul Kronenberg.

Hospitals are not sure how many new patients they will see after people enroll in the new government insurance exchanges. The Syracuse Hospital Executive Council gets patient volume numbers from all three hospitals in the city and executive director Ron Lagoe says it will be a while before long term trends and patterns will be identified in the data.

"We can put down a set of assumptions and make a plan and put huge bullets on these assumptions and just say - if, if, if - but I don't think we even have the ifs defined right now," said Lagoe.

While more people will have access to insurance, it will not be free. There are different coverage levels with varying co payments. Dr. Kronenberg says many patients will be more involved in the cost of their care but the affordable care act doesn't provide a golden ticket.

"Now they think have insurance, they go to an emergency room or take an ambulance - and now they have 40% of the bill they are responsible for," said Kronenberg.