Millions of people have been able to get some form of health insurance coverage since the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Typically, these were people who tended to be shut out from buying coverage in the past, including the economically disadvantaged, chronically ill and younger adults. Now, a slew of data shows how beneficial access to this kind of care has been to those population groups.
For instance, among the chronically ill, the amount of people covered by some kind of coverage has grown 4.9 percentage points, according to new research from Harvard Medical School published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. As a consequence, the rate at which those with chronic illnesses had to forego visits to a doctor has likewise fallen 2.4 percentage points, and the likelihood that they would go for routine checkups grew 2.7 points.
Not all states were equal
However, because of the way certain aspects of the ACA - including the expansion of Medicaid programs - have been implemented from one state to the next, these results varied widely nationwide, the study found. That left "substantial gaps" for those who may be in need of greater coverage, especially where Medicaid was not broadened to cover more residents. This coverage gap was also observed among minorities, as 1 in 5 African Americans and 1 in 3 Hispanics who had some form of chronic health issue did not have reasonable access to care or coverage even after the ACA went into effect.
The good news, though, is that a separate study - published by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the medical journal Psychiatric Services - shows more people with mental illness and substance abuse problems likewise have access to the insurance and care they need. This is indicated by the fact that there has been an increase in use of mental health services of 2.2 percentage points, while Medicaid payments for substance abuse treatments is up 7.7 percentage points.
What about young people?
Meanwhile, millions of young people have been able to obtain health insurance coverage thanks to the ACA's mandate that they can be covered on their parents' plans until they're 26, according to The Washington Post. But with the potential for the ACA to be repealed, either totally or in part, some worry about what that will do for enrollment among millennials. As such, there is now a significant push to get those young adults signed up for their own coverage in case they cannot rely on their parents' insurance going forward.
With this in mind, it might also be wise for insurers to make sure people understand what any potential changes would mean for them and their unique medical situations. A little education in this regard can go a long way toward ensuring people are doing all they can to keep at least some access to affordable care as time goes on.