Obamacare improves access for Mexican-Americans with hypertension

Mexican-heritage Latinos with hypertension were 11 percent more likely to be insured and 14 percent were more likely to see a doctor and take medicine after passage of the Affordable Care Act.
By Amy Wallace  |  June 16, 2017 at 2:27 PM
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June 16 (UPI) -- A recent study found the Affordable Care Act narrows the healthcare gap between Mexican-Americans and white Americans with high blood pressure.

The study, published in the July edition of Medical Care, suggests a benefit from the ACA at a time when Republicans in the Congress, the Senate and the Trump Administration are working to repeal and replace the legislation with a version of their own known as the American Health Care Act or AHCA.

The AHCA, which is yet to be passed, has received wide-ranging criticism for including proposals to no longer cover pre-existing conditions and potential to cause millions of Americans to lose health insurance they purchase through the ACA's state-run exchanges.

Researchers at Drexel University analyzed data from a California survey, showing the gap between white and Mexican-heritage Latino patients with hypertension who had access to regular healthcare narrowed by 75 percent after the implementation of the ACA, also known as Obamacare.

The gap between patients who had visited a doctor within 12 months of taking the survey narrowed by 66 percent after the ACA was adopted.

"This particular study was motivated by the finding that Mexican-heritage Latinos have lower rates of hypertension, but worse patterns of treatment and control relative to whites," Dr. Ryan McKenna, an assistant professor in Drexel's Dornsife School of Public Health, said in a press release. "Given that Mexican-heritage Latinos make up the largest share of Latinos in the U.S. -- a group that is projected to comprise a quarter of the total population by 2050 -- it is important to understand the factors influencing their health care needs."

The study found not only that the ACA narrowed the disparity between Mexican-American patients and white patients in regard to doctor visits, the health insurance law also contributed to significant gains in the likelihood of having access to care overall.

"This is crucial for diagnosing and managing chronic diseases like hypertension," McKenna said. "With a usual source of care, the onset of hypertension can be delayed or managed with relatively inexpensive medications."

"Waiting to treat the disease in the emergency department setting, particularly once these more serious conditions manifest, is extremely costly to the patient and the taxpayer."

Researchers stated that the findings may not all relate to just the ACA and that in the last year of the study, patients were 9 percent less likely to visit a doctor and showed no improvement in taking their medication.

"While the Affordable Care Act is not a panacea for public health disparities, it is an invaluable step to reducing them and extending coverage to vulnerable populations," McKenna said. "This is something I hope policymakers keep in mind as they consider reforms to the current policy."

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