Some 14 million people are newly insured because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and millions of others have more generous insurance with promising new benefits.
So you might think doctors’ offices would be flooded with a host of new patients seeking more care than they had before. It’s not happening.
To exclude the effects of the 2008 financial crisis, the recession, and the slow recovery, John Graham, a senior fellow with The National Center for Policy Analysis, compares the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with the results of the organization’s survey conducted one decade ago. The result:
“The proportion of people of all ages with a ‘usual place to go for medical care’ was 87.8 percent [in 2014], the same as it was in 2002–2003,” Graham said. “Further, 5.7 percent reported that they failed to obtain needed medical care due to cost last year, the same as it was in 2003–2004.”
A possible explanation, says Graham, is the proportion of the uninsured population is not much different from what it was a decade ago.
Another study focuses on what happened in 2014, the first year of access to expanded Medicaid programs and the health insurance exchanges. New data from 16,000 providers across the country, collected by AthenaHealth, show requests for new appointments just barely edged upward in 2014. The proportion of new patient visits to primary care doctors increased from 22.6 percent in 2013 to 22.9 percent in 2014.
My own view is the importance of health insurance has been enormously exaggerated by the health policy community. People without health insurance often find a way to get insurance when a family member develops a serious health problem. Even when they don’t, they tend to find ways of getting health care.
The kind of insurance people are acquiring is not conducive to an increase in doctor visits. Because of the high deductibles in the plans sold in Obamacare exchanges, most people with newly acquired private insurance are paying the full bill out of pocket. It’s as though they were uninsured!
John Goodman ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the Independent Institute. An earlier version of this commentary originally appeared at Forbes. Reprinted with permission.
Brian W. Ward, Tainya C. Clarke, Gulnur Freeman, and Jeannine S. Schiller, “Early Release of Selected Estimates Based on Data From the January–September 2014 National Health Interview Survey,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 24, 2015: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/early-release-selected-estimates-based-data-january-september-2014-national-health-