Continuing from the first part of the series, we have already seen that even after immense increase in the number of newly insured, there isn’t any substantial increase in the number of sick patients looking for Primary Care Providers. A closer look at patients with chronic illnesses shows that in 2013’s first quarter, a higher number of individuals having insurance were diagnosed with chronic diseases, as compared to people who had recently acquired health insurance. This lower chronic disease liability on newly insured destroys GOP claim that post Obamacare, people with preexisting conditions will rush to Primary Care Providers, thereby increasing pressure on the system.
In this second part, we are going to take a closer look at the difference in chronic disease diagnosis for existing patients and newly insured in 2013 and 2014. This comparison will be drawn on the visits to Primary Care Providers after Obamacare insurance kicked in. A separate figure will cover the exception that exists in the South Census region.
Starting with the first figure, we have a comparison of chronic disease diagnosis between 2013 and 2014 in the following figure.
The above figure picks up the commercially insured in the age group of 18 to 64 years of age, and compares the data available for 2013. For established patients, 2014 showed nearly same diagnosis rates among established patients. The same trend was observed for new patients, with only a marginal change visible in both values. As a result, established patients were more likely to get a chronic disease diagnosis out of the 60,000 visits per month to PCPs. The analysis was conducted across all states, and except for a single exception in South, the readings fairly corroborated each other.
In South Census region, commercial insurance for 18 to 64 years of age gave the following results.
The alarming factor here is the drastic increase in the number of diagnosis issued for diabetes under the new patients tab. It means that the number of newly insured patients diagnosed with diabetes increased sharply from 2013 to 2014. As more data comes out after people start visiting their primary care providers during the year, the trend would be completely unraveled to show whether an anomaly exists in South Census region. Other than this, it is fairly clear that newly insured patients are not using their health insurance by flocking to Primary Care Providers and disrupting the healthcare infrastructure.
However, there are several factors to consider before we completely dismiss the Republican claim. In available reports, only 12,700 physicians participated in the first quarter survey and concluded that there is no increase in newly insured patients due to ACA kick-in. In fact, there is a minor decrease in the number of new patients in the first quarter of 2014. The impact delivered by ACA is not fully measurable yet, and there are some reasons which come into play here.
1) The newly insured patient number is not that significant yet, and that’s why the first quarter of 2014 did not see a major influx.
2) A smaller percentage of newly insured patients required immediate care.
3) According to available reports, there still might be a gap of a few weeks or months before all newly insured patients get their doctor appointments and figure into the data we have been analyzing.
That being said, the picture isn’t fully painted yet, and as the year draws on, the facts and figures would definitely be moved around. Till then, it seems that the GOP view was wrong all along – newly insured were not waiting for their Obamacare insurance to call in sick at the healthcare system of America.