Report: Physician practices not hit by ACA access crisis

Despite facing opposition from its start five years ago, some fears related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have failed to materialize.

The 16.4 million Americans who gained private health insurance over the past years did not flood physician office waiting rooms nearly to the extent anticipated. Rather, new patient visits to primary care physicians increased very slightly over the past 12 months, from 22.6 percent in 2013 to 22.9 percent in 2014, according to a report from athenahealth. What's more, the complexity of the past year's visits stayed the same as it was for 2013.

"This very unique data allows us to gain an understanding of how health reform is affecting physician practices so far," Kathy Hempstead, who directs coverage issues at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the report, said in an announcement.

Other highlights from the analysis of more than 62,000 healthcare providers and 62 million patients included the following:

  • In states that expanded their Medicaid programs, the rate of physician visits by uninsured people fell from 4.6 percent of patients down to 2.8 percent in 2014. In nonexpansion states, the proportion of physician visits by the uninsured fell from 7 percent to 6.2 percent.
  • In the Medicaid expansion states, 1.1 percent of individuals with commercial coverage switched to Medicaid from 2012 to 2013. This number increased to 1.8 percent between 2013 and 2014, "a significant increase in relative terms," according to researchers.
  • With the exception of mental disorders, the data shows no consistent evidence of an increase in the proportion of patients with chronic disease treated by providers.
  • Age-related disparities in insurance coverage diminished considerably from 2013 to 2014.

To learn more:
- see the report (.pdf)
- read the announcement