Healthcare system prepared to handle increased coverage

Increased insurance coverage rates under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are unlikely to overwhelm healthcare services, according to a new report from the Commonwealth Fund.

Despite earlier research that indicates healthcare reform increases emergency department (ED) use, increased coverage will only boost ED visits slightly more than 2 percent, the report found.

In addition, outpatient and inpatient hospital visits will increase approximately 2.5 and 3 percent nationwide, respectively. Prescription medication use and refills will rise 2.5 percent in nearly every state. The research assumes all states will eventually expand their Medicaid programs under the ACA. The report predicts broad variation in inpatient use by region, with the increase averaging 4 percent in the West, 3.4 percent in the South and 2 percent in the Northeast, according to the report.

The healthcare system is "likely to be able to absorb these increases," authors Sherry Glied and Stephanie Ma of New York University wrote, as existing variations in ED, inpatient and outpatient care are not associated with significant care access delays. Widespread adoption of technological advances such as telemedicine is likely to further blunt the impact of increased use of services, Glied and Ma wrote.

Although the research eases concerns that the system won't be able to accommodate newly insured patients, Commonwealth Fund President David Blumenthal, M.D., said in a statement that it will be necesssary to continually monitor the capacity of the health system to meet increased demand.

To learn more:
- read the report (.pdf)
- here's the statement