How the ACA affected access to primary care: 5 things to know

Primary care practices seem to be handling the influx of new patients who received coverage from the ACA with ease, according to a research letter published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

To assess the effect the ACA had on availability of primary care physicians, researchers used simulated patients to request new appointments from primary care physicians in 10 states in 2016 and compared results to a baseline 2012-2013 study.

They looked for changes in appointment availability and the probability of a short wait time (one week or less) and long wait times (more than 30 days).

Here are five findings from the study.

1. Across the 10 states, appointment availability for Medicaid callers increased 5.4 percentage points after ACA implementation.

2. For patients with private insurance, there was no significant change in appointment availability.

3. Short wait times decreased for both Medicaid and privately insured patients (6.7 percentage points and 4.1 percentage points).

4. Appointment availability for Medicaid patients is still lower than availability for privately insured patients, but the gap between the two narrowed post-ACA implementation.

5. The study's authors concluded primary care practices are accommodating for the newly insured patients with shorter visits and "more rigorous management of no-shows."

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