With ongoing questions about whether Obamacare enrollees will be able to use their coverage, a couple of new surveys suggest that the newly insured are generally able to get the care they need.
The Commonwealth Fund, a health research foundation supportive of the health-care law, is out with a new survey this morning examining the experiences of the newly insured under the Affordable Care Act. The survey, conducted by SSRS between April and June, found that 60 percent of people with new coverage, either through Medicaid or a private health plan, said they had already visited a health-care provider or filled a prescription.
Just about one in five of those with new coverage, though, said they tried to find a primary care doctor — but of those, 75 percent said their search was somewhat easy or very easy. And once they found a primary care doctor, most new enrollees said they were able to make an appointment within two weeks:
Not surprisingly, the Commonwealth survey found that the wait times for specialists were somewhat longer. Of the 30 percent of adults who said they saw or needed a specialist, 58 percent said they made an appointment within two weeks, which was slightly less than the 67 percent who said they were able to see a primary care doctor in the same time frame.
Another new look at the early Obamacare experience shows the impact of the Medicaid expansion. Athenahealth, a major electronic health record provider, has been working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to analyze how patient demographics have shifted for care providers using the company's software. Notably, they find since January, Medicaid patients are taking up a greater share of doctor appointments in states with expanded Medicaid programs.
This isn't all to say that there aren't problems accessing care. There are recent lawsuits from patients who say they can't find doctors or that their plans discriminate against their conditions, and there are major application backlogs for Medicaid in at least six states. The federal agency overseeing Medicaid is now planning its own study of how easily beneficiaries can access care.
On the whole, though, today's new data provide some encouraging signs for the health-care law.