U.S. Residents Report Improvements in Health, Access to Care
U.S. residents say they are in better health now than they were two years ago, before the Affordable Care Act's coverage expansions took effect, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Reuters reports (Seaman, Reuters, 7/28).
For the study, researchers analyzed data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index from 2012 to 2015. The survey included responses from more than 500,000 U.S. adults (Ungar, USA Today, 7/28).
Overall, study participants reported improvements in:
- Access to primary health care services and prescription drugs;
- Affordable health care;
- General health; and
- Insurance coverage.
Benjamin Sommers, a former HHS adviser who led the study, said, "Trends for these measures before the [ACA] were significantly worsening for all outcomes" (Reuters, 7/28).
The study found the U.S. uninsured rate dropped by 7.9 percentage points from before the ACA took effect to the first quarter of 2015 (USA Today, 7/28).
In addition, since the ACA's coverage expansions took effect:
- About 11 million more adults say they can afford health care;
- Around seven million adults found a primary care physician;
- Around 6.8 million more adults say they are in "excellent" or "very good" health; and
- About 4.8 million additional adults can now afford medications (Reuters, 7/28).
Meanwhile, the number of U.S. residents who reported limiting activity because of poor health decreased by 1.7 percentage points, according to the study (Scott, National Journal, 7/28).
Researchers noted the greatest improvements were made among ethnic and racial minorities (Reuters, 7/28). For example, the study found the uninsured rate among minorities dropped the largest (USA Today, 7/28).
Further, the study found Medicaid expansions under the ACA helped reduce the number of low-income residents who:
- Were uninsured;
- Did not have a physician; and
- Said they had trouble getting medications (Reuters, 7/28).
According to the study, these improvements were more significant in states that expanded their Medicaid programs than in non-expansion states. The authors wrote, "As states continue to debate whether to expand Medicaid under the ACA, these results add to the growing body of research indicating that such expansions are associated with significant benefits for low-income populations" (USA Today, 7/28).
However, the researchers noted it is unclear how much the ACA directly affected the outcomes. According to the researchers, an improving U.S. economy and other factors might also have contributed to the improvements (Reuters, 7/28). Sommers said, "The overall pattern, though, is consistent with what previous studies of insurance expansions have shown, with pretty rapid improvements in self-reported health" (National Journal, 7/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.