Will reform bring better health to newly insured?

We now know the uninsured rate has reached a record low thanks to the Affordable Care Act, but it remains unclear whether the millions of newly insured people will actually become healthier and, therefore, reduce overall costs, reported The Health Care Blog.

Research studies show mixed results with regard to the link between health insurance and health status. One study concludes that three states with expanded Medicaid programs saw significant drops in mortality compared to states that didn't widen eligibility. Plus, a February study from the American Cancer Society found that when teens and young adults have health insurance, they're more likely to be diagnosed early with cancer, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

But another study concluded that Oregon's lottery-based Medicaid expansion resulted in increased use of the healthcare system. What's more, newly covered consumers didn't have lower hypertension, high cholesterol or diabetes rates.

Although these studies don't negate the importance of insurance coverage, they show it remains to be seen if the Affordable Care Act will actually improve the overall health of those newly insured, the Health Care Blog noted.

"In the end, the benefits of ACA may lie more in their contribution to economic health than physical health," David Orentlicher, a law professor and adjunct professor of medicine at Indiana University, wrote in the blog post.

What is clear is that newly insured individuals need help navigating the health insurance system to guarantee they fully realize their coverage benefits. That's why some insurers, like Independence Blue Cross, are shifting their focus from trying to boost enrollment to helping new members understand how to use their policies.

To learn more:
- read the Health Care Blog post