WASHINGTON, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- A review of data on community health centers shows large increases in the number of people who have gained access to healthcare as a result of the Affordable Care Act, especially in underserved urban and rural areas of the United States.
Researchers pin much of the credit to the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, also referred to as ObamaCare, which has allowed people who cannot afford health insurance to have greater access to care. They note, though, that there has also been a large increase in the number people who have purchased private insurance through the ACA-mandated state exchanges.
The ACA, passed by Congress in 2010, set basic requirements for insurance policies, created ways for consumers to compare and judge policies, and expanded methods to help people get insurance through subsidies and an expansion of the Medicaid program.
"Our findings underscore the importance of the Affordable Care Act to the poorest Americans," said Dr. Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University, in a press release. "This report shows the importance of ensuring that the ACA's resources reach all medically underserved communities, including those in the 20 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid."
The researchers reviewed data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services for its 2014 Uniform Data Services report on 1,300 federally funded health centers during 2014, the first year the ACA was in full effect.
Between 2013, the year before ACA exchanges went online and subsidies were available for health insurance policies, through 2014, when the law was fully implemented, researchers found what they call large improvements: a 17 percent increase, an additional 2.3 million people, in the number of patients seeking care at centers who had insurance; a 16 percent, or 1.2 million person, decline in the number of patients at centers without insurance; and a 5 percent, or 1.1 million person, increase in the number of patients treated.
"Community health centers not only are critical providers for their patients but offer a crucial window into communities most in need of the health system transformation that comes from the health reforms embodied in the ACA," said Feygele Jacobs, president and CEO of the RHCN Community Health Foundation.
The study is published at the George Washington University website.