WEDNESDAY, May 17, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Low-income Americans have gained access to medical care and improved their health under the Affordable Care Act's coverage expansions, a new study says.
"With Congress debating major changes to the Affordable Care Act, especially for people on Medicaid and with pre-existing conditions, it's critical for policymakers to understand what's at risk. Our study shows that the ACA continues to improve medical care and health among low-income patients and those with chronic illnesses," said study author Benjamin Sommers. He's an associate professor of health policy and economics at Harvard University's School of Public Health.
The researchers found that people who obtained health coverage under Medicaid or through the federal insurance marketplace had reduced out-of-pocket spending, better access to primary care and preventive services, and improved self-reported health.
For people with chronic conditions, such as asthma and diabetes, Obamacare resulted in more affordable care, more regular care, better adherence to their medications, and better self-reported health, the study found.
Sommers and his colleagues analyzed data from low-income adults in three states: Arkansas, which expanded private insurance to low-income adults using the federal marketplace; Kentucky, which expanded Medicaid under Obamacare; and Texas, which did not expand coverage.
Before the health law took effect, the three states had similar uninsured rates among low-income adults, around 40 percent. By the end of 2016, the uninsured rates were just over 7 percent in Kentucky, less than 12 percent in Arkansas, and about 28 percent in Texas.
Among low-income adults who gained coverage, there was a 41 percent increase in having a usual source of care and a $337 drop in annual out-of-pocket medical spending. The researchers also reported a marked rise in preventive health visits and blood sugar testing, and a 23 percent increase in "excellent" self-reported health.
These improvements increased over the three years of the ACA's coverage expansions, and occurred in states that either expanded Medicaid or private insurance. This shows that both approaches are effective in helping lower-income Americans, the study authors said in a university news release.
The study was published online May 17 in the journal Health Affairs.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on health insurance.