In 2015, when health insurer enthusiasm about the Affordable Care Act was peaking, ACA coverage expansion programs seemed to have a noticeable effect on U.S. residents’ access to medical care.
Susan Hayes and other analysts at the New York-based Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit organization that has strongly supported the goals of the ACA, published a report supporting that conclusion in a new look at federal government health survey data.
Before ACA coverage expansion programs came to life, some critics asked whether the programs would actually expand the amount of care people were getting, or simply increase the amount of cash providers received for care they would have provided anyway.
In the new issue brief, the Commonwealth Fund analysts write that the percentage of adults who said they had gone without care in the past year because of cost fell to 13 percent in 2015, from 16 percent in 2013.
The percentage of adults with chronic health problems, such as asthma or pre-diabetes, who had not had a checkup or other routine care in the previous two years, fell to 13 percent, from 14 percent. In theory, an increase in access to care for people at a high risk of developing catastrophic health problems could reduce the number of people with disabilities, the number who need long-term care services, and the number who die.
The ACA did not expand dental coverage for adults.
The Commonwealth Fund analysts found that the percentage of U.S. adults who had not had a dental visit within the past year increased to 16 percent in 2014, from 15 percent in 2012. That’s a sign that the ACA itself, rather than general economic or health insurance trends, helped improve people’s access to care, the analysts say.