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    Is Obamacare actually making America healthier?

    Expanding access to healthcare insurance is intended to protect more people from crushing medical debt, but does making it easier to see a doctor improve their health?

    Researchers have been comparing early data from states that expanded Medicaid, set up their own healthcare exchanges or defaulted to federal exchanges, to states that declined to expand Medicaid coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, ‘Obamacare’).

     

    Further reading: As insurers leave Obamacare exchanges, doctors pay the price

     

    Since the passage of the ACA in 2010, 32 states—including the District of Columbia—have expanded Medicaid coverage for low-income adults. Nineteen states have not.

    Clues are emerging from recent data as more people start seeing a doctor more often.

    Short-term window, but signs of change  

    An Annals of Internal Medicine study, based on National Health Survey data of 44,427 adults with family income below 138% of the poverty line, compared outcomes from the states that expanded Medicaid between 2010 and 2014 to the states that didn’t. By the second half of 2014, low-income adults in the Medicaid expansion states reported increased insurance coverage, visits to general physicians and specialists, more overnight hospital stays, and better quality of coverage compared with the states that didn’t expand coverage.

     

    More healthacare news: How to combat the impending physician shortage

     

    “There was more diagnosis of chronic health conditions such as diabetes and high cholesterol, suggesting that increased insurance coverage enables people to get screened for chronic diseases.” says study coauthor Sarah Miller, PhD, assistant professor of business economics and public policy at the University of Michigan.

    “Fifty-eight percent of people queried said that they had visited a general physician in the past year. That jumped to 68%, after the ACA, a significant increase,” says Miller. “This was really only the very early first-year effect. I see this as the first step in having actual health improvements.”    

    Next: Only recently, have we had enough data to determine an answer

    Wendy Wolfson
    Wendy Wolfson is a contributing author for Medical Economics.

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    • Anonymous
      Its almost impossible for physicians to improve overall human health, since that is not what they are there for; drugs and diagnostics do not improve health-- delaying death and treating symptoms will get you your data points, however human health will continue to decline as long as physicians are in charge of "improving" the human condition

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