Study: American health improved under A.C.A.

Jul 28, 2015, 4:12 PM EDT
Pediatrician Lanre Falusi examines an infant's ear in an exam room at a Community Clinic Inc. health center in Takoma Park, Maryland, U.S., on Wednesday, April 8, 2015.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that more than 500,000 Americans have experienced improvements in insurance coverage, access to primary care and prescription medicine, affordable healthcare and overall health since late 2013. Reuters reports:

"Trends for these measures before the Affordable Care Act were significantly worsening for all outcomes," said Dr. Benjamin Sommers, who led the research as an adviser at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The law created exchanges that sell subsidized health insurance to all individuals regardless of their health.
Based on the study results, approximately 15.8 million adults gained coverage under the law, better known as Obamacare, said Sommers, who is now at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
About 7 million adults obtained a personal physician, about 4.8 million more adults can afford medicine, about 11 million more adults say healthcare is affordable and about 6.8 million more people consider themselves in excellent or very good health, he said.
In a new paper for the Journal of the American Medical Association, a group of scholars attempt to produce a before-and-after picture of the health care law’s implementation. To do so, they draw on three years of data from Gallup’s ongoing “well-being index” survey, which asks respondents about health insurance status as well as their access to care.
Among the survey’s regular questions: Are you having an “easy” time paying for medication? Do you have a regular primary care physician? Do you feel like you’re in good health? That last question is important because, according to some previously published research, how people answer is a pretty good predictor of mortality. People who say they are in good health usually are.
The picture from the raw data is a little muddled. The number of people without health insurance has dropped precipitously, from 20.3 percent of working-aged adults before the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansion took full effect to 14.5 percent at the beginning of 2015. And the percentage of respondents who say they “cannot afford care” fell from 20.4 percent to 17.8 percent during that same time period.
On the other hand, the percentage who said they have no personal physician remained basically the same, and the percentage who said they were in “fair” or “poor” health actually increased a bit, from 18.3 percent to 18.8 percent.
But the researchers didn’t simply pull numbers from the surveys. They adjusted the responses for variables like unemployment, in an attempt to isolate the effects of the health care law from other factors, such as the recovering economy. The researchers also looked specifically at the trends -- in other words, whether access to care was getting worse before the health care law’s implementation, and, if so, whether that deterioration stopped.