Primary care visits expected to rise less than 5% post-Affordable Care Act

Estimates suggests that primary-care providers can expect about 70 additional visits a year per year, or slightly more than one visit a week.

HealthDay News — The greater number of Americans with health insurance under the Affordable Care Act will lead to only a slight increase in the use of medical services, and the health system can cope with the added demand, according to a new report from The Commonwealth Fund.

“It is critical that the expansion of health insurance coverage leads to improved access to care for those who were previously uninsured and does not limit access for those who already have coverage,” wrote Sherry Glied, PhD, of New York University, and colleagues.

Once the law is fully implemented, the expansion in health coverage will lead to a 3.8% increase in visits to primary-care clinicians nationally. Just 17 states will see increases of more than 4% and only seven states will see an increase of more than 5.

The 3.8% national increase represents about 70 additional visits a year per primary-care provider, or slightly more than one visit a week. The rise in primary care visits will have only a slight impact on people's access to care, the researchers said.

Expansion of health coverage will lead to a 2.2% rise in emergency room visits and a 2.6% increase in outpatient hospital visits. Hospital admissions will rise 3.1% nationally, and nearly every state will see 2.5% increases in prescription drug use/refills.

These estimates are based on the assumption that all states will eventually expand Medicaid, noted the scientists.

“Our results suggest that the current supply of primary care physicians and physicians in most specialties is sufficient to ensure this result will hold,” concluded the investigators.

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