Study: Affordable Care Act didn't reduce care access for those already insured

Health insurance benefits form
A new study finds that expanded insurance coverage did not affect access to care for those who already had coverage. (Getty/Michaelquirk)

Despite worries to the contrary, a new study demonstrates that expanded healthcare coverage has not reduced access to care for those with pre-existing coverage.

Data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey from 2008 through 2014 saw no effect on access to care for continuously insured individuals across eight measures, despite the increase in coverage over that period provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and similar reforms, according to a new study in Health Affairs. The authors note that the study covered a range of scenarios, from years with relatively low increases in insurance coverage to years during which Medicaid expansion and improving job markets drove higher expansion.

The main worry, wrote study authors Salam Abdus, staff fellow, and Steven C. Hill, senior economist, both of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, involves “negative spillovers” caused when a surge of newly insured patients puts pressure on the existing supply of care and preventive services

Given the link between system capacity and negative spillover, the authors took a closer look at a pair of vulnerable subpopulations: patients in rural areas, whose access to care was already under pressure due to the physician shortage, and adults who received Medicaid benefits throughout the period. The data showed no consistent evidence that expanded insurance coverage affected access negatively in these populations, either.