According to a new report from the Commonwealth Fund, 11 million Americans who were uninsured prior to getting coverage under the Affordable Care Act will amount to a 3.8 percent increase in primary care visits annually in the U.S. That number will vary from state to state, however.
In January 2014, the Affordable Care Act extended healthcare coverage to an estimated 30 million people.With that dramatic increase in mind, the study’s authors project there will be an increase of 20.3 million visits nationally, with about a third of those visits coming from people who were newly insured through marketplace exchanges.
Emergency room visits are also expected to grow, by 1.1 million visits from the newly-insured. are expected to grow by 1.1 million visits. About two-thirds of those will be from people who are gaining coverage under Medicaid.
Can Doctors Keep Up?
The question on many people’s mind is whether or not we have enough doctors to keep up with the surge in demand. Most analysts don’t anticipate that to be a problem, which according to the Commonwealth Fund is contrary to what most earlier analysis.
With 3.8 percent being the increase across the board, no state is expected to see a dramatically higher increase than that. The Commonwealth Fund report expects that only 17 states will experience an increase of more than 4 percent in primary care visits and only 7 states are expected to see an increase of more than 4 percent. Only 7 states will see an increase of more than 5 percent. Medical and surgical specialty services will see much smaller changes, from 0.5 percent to just under 2 percent.
The report concluded the following:
“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. Our results suggest that the current supply of primary care physicians and physicians in most specialties is sufficient to ensure this result will hold.”