Yes, the ACA expanded coverage. But now even insured can't see physicians because of costs, study finds

Despite health insurance gains over the past 20 years, affordability is still lagging and causing patients to skip out on seeing their physicians, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The study adds to a growing body of literature indicating that the rise of healthcare costs is affecting patients' ability to access care.

In their study, the authors — affiliated with Cambridge (Mass.) Health Alliance, Boston-based Harvard Medical School and City University of New York in New York City — sought to answer: Did unmet need for physician services change between 1998 and 2017? To answer the question, the researchers studied 20 years of data from the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to identify if adults had unmet needs for physician and preventive care.

The study found from 1998-2017, the inability for Americans to see a physician because of cost grew 2.7 percentage points. Researchers said the increase is owed to declining access to service among insured patients, despite coverage gains realized under government regulation like the ACA.

The same was true for patients with chronic conditions: The adjusted proportion of chronically ill adults who couldn't see a physician because of cost increased for most conditions. The authors did note that no decline was found in the proportion of chronically ill adults who received checkups.

"Despite coverage gains since 1998, most measures of unmet need for physician services have shown no improvement, and financial access to physician services has decreased," the authors concluded.

Access the study here.

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