Diagnoses of Chronic Conditions Could Rise as More Gain Insurance
The rate of people diagnosed with chronic diseases could rise as a result of more individuals becoming insured via the Affordable Care Act, according to study published this month in the journal Health Affairs, HealthDay/US News & World Report reports.
For the study, researchers examined data from the National Center for Health Statistics' National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2012. The survey contained responses from 28,000 U.S. residents ages 20 to 64. In addition, the researchers looked at Congressional Budget Office projections of the ACA's effects.
Overall, the study found that individuals with health coverage were more likely to be diagnosed with chronic conditions -- such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol -- than people who were uninsured.
According to the study, if the uninsured rate were cut by about 50% under the ACA's coverage expansions, around 1.5 million newly insured individuals likely would be diagnosed with at least one chronic condition, while an estimated 659,000 individuals could take control of a previously unmanaged chronic illness.
In addition, the researchers found that when uninsured individuals are diagnosed with chronic conditions, they are less likely to have control of those conditions than those who have health coverage. According to the study, insured individuals had better blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels than those who lacked coverage.
Lead study author Joshua Salomon, a professor of global health at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in a release said, "Our study suggests that insurance expansion is likely to have a large and meaningful effect on diagnosis and management of some of the most important chronic illnesses affecting the U.S. population."
Researchers also noted that the U.S. health care system must be prepared to provide high-quality care for a growing number of insured U.S. residents who are newly diagnosed with chronic conditions (Dallas, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 9/9). They suggested that lawmakers should:
- Relax rules to allow nurse practitioners and others to provide care;
- Be aware that a spike in short-term expenditures on health care services could improve long-term savings; and
- Promote quality, evidence-based care for chronic disease, which "remains suboptimal" (Hogan et al., Health Affairs, September 2015).