Americans report improved health, better healthcare: study

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What Americans Think of the Affordable Care Act


Americans are reporting improved health and better healthcare two years after health insurance became available under the Affordable Care Act, according to a new study published on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study of more than 500,000 Americans found improvements in insurance coverage, access to primary care and prescription medicine, affordable healthcare and overall health since late 2013.

"Trends for these measures before the Affordable Care Act were significantly worsening for all outcomes," said Dr. Benjamin Sommers, who led the research as an adviser at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The law created exchanges that sell subsidized health insurance to all individuals regardless of their health.

Based on the study results, approximately 15.8 million adults gained coverage under the law, better known as Obamacare, said Sommers, who is now at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

About 7 million adults obtained a personal physician, about 4.8 million more adults can afford medicine, about 11 million more adults say healthcare is affordable and about 6.8 million more people consider themselves in excellent or very good health, he said.

The study analyzed results from the 2012-2015 Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index, a daily national telephone survey, to determine trends before and after the government expanded insurance.

The researchers observed the largest improvements among racial and ethnic minorities.

Developments in the Obamacare debate:

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Americans report improved health, better healthcare: study
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 15: A person walks into the UniVista Insurance company office where people are signing up for health care plans under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, on December 15, 2015 in Miami, Florida. Today, is the deadline to sign up for a plan under the Affordable Care Act for people that want to be insured on January 1, 2016. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
House Health subcommittee member Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., questions Dr. Mandy Cohen, chief of staff, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, during a hearing on the state of Obamacare's CO-OP Program, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. The argument at the hearing was the Obama administration's most direct response to a wave of seven co-ops closing in Oct., 2015. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
US President Barack Obama speaks about healthcare reforms and the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, during the Catholic Hospital Association Conference in Washington, DC, June 9, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama speaks during Catholic Hospital Association Conference in Washington on Tuesday, June 9, 2015. Obama defended the health care overhaul just days ahead of an anticipated decision by the Supreme Court that could eliminate health care for millions of people. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: Supporters of the Affordable Care Act gather in front of the U.S Supreme Court during a rally March 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case of King v. Burwell that could determine the fate of health care subsidies for as many as eight million people. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Protestors hold placards challenging 'Obamacare' outside of the US Supreme Court on March 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. The US Supreme Court faces a momentous case Wednesday on the sweeping health insurance reform law that President Barack Obama wants to leave as part of his legacy. The question before the court is whether the seven million people or more who subscribed via the government's website can obtain tax subsidies that make the coverage affordable. A ruling is expected in June. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: Supporters of the Affordable Care Act gather in front of the U.S Supreme Court during a rally March 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case of King v. Burwell that could determine the fate of health care subsidies for as many as eight million people. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, returns to his office after the House voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015. The Republican-controlled House voted along party lines to repeal the health care law that stands as President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement, but this time the bill carried instructions for several committees to replace "Obamacare" with new policies. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is unlikely to pass, and even if it does, Obama has threatened a veto. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
A graph and details on health care costs and the Affordable Care Act are seen in President Barack Obama's new $4 trillion budget plan that was sent to Congress today, on Capitol Hill in Washington, early Monday, Feb. 02, 2015. The fiscal blueprint, for the budget year that begins Oct. 1, seeks to raise taxes on wealthier Americans and corporations and use the extra income to lift the fortunes of families who have felt squeezed during tough economic times. Republicans, who now hold the power in Congress, are accusing the president of seeking to revert to tax-and-spend policies that will harm the economy while failing to do anything about soaring spending on government benefit programs. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, opens a meeting of the House Rules Committee as the panel prepares a bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, that is scheduled to go to the floor this week, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Feb. 02, 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas, left, joined by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., right, testifies as the House Rules Committee prepares a bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, that is scheduled to go to the floor this week, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. Burgess, a medical doctor, is a member of the House Subcommittee on Health which has jurisdiction in matters of health insurance. Pallone is the top Democrat on the Health Subcommittee. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
FILE - In this file photo taken with a fisheye lens April 6, 2013, Arkansas legislators meet in the House chamber at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. Arkansas Gov. A wave of newly elected Republican lawmakers who ran on vows to fight so-called Obamacare, including the state’s “private option” Medicaid expansion, has raised doubts about the future of a leading model for conservative states to gradually adapt to the federal health care law. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)
Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, a member of the House Rules Committee, makes a point as the panel prepares a bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, that is scheduled to go to the floor this week, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks to the Catholic Hospital Association Conference at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, Tuesday, June 9, 2015. Obama declared that his 5-year-old health care law is firmly established as the "reality" of health care in America, even as he awaits a Supreme Court ruling that could undermine it. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
US President Barack Obama speaks about healthcare reforms and the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, during the Catholic Hospital Association Conference in Washington, DC, June 9, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: Five-year-old James Cook of Cleveland, Ohio, participates in a rally to support the Affordable Care Act in front of the U.S Supreme Court March 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case of King v. Burwell that could determine the fate of health care subsidies for as many as eight million people. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
FILE - In this March 25, 2015, file photo, Margot Riphagen, of New Orleans, wears a birth control pills costume as she protests in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, as the court heard oral arguments in the challenges of President Barack Obama's health care law requirement that businesses provide their female employees with health insurance that includes access to contraceptives. Some insurance plans offered on the health marketplaces violate the law’s requirements for women’s health, according to a new report from a women’s legal advocacy group. The National Women’s Law Center analyzed plans in 15 states over two years and found some excluded dependents from maternity coverage, prohibited coverage of breast pumps or failed to cover all federally approved birth control methods. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: Supporters of the Affordable Care Act gather in front of the U.S Supreme Court during a rally March 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case of King v. Burwell that could determine the fate of health care subsidies for as many as eight million people. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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In a second analysis of low-income adults, the researchers found that expanding Medicaid under the law is linked to drops in the number of uninsured adults, fewer people without doctors and fewer people reporting difficulty in getting medicine.

About 30 states have used federal funds offered under the law to expand Medicaid coverage to individuals with incomes of up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

The researchers cautioned it was not clear the law directly improved health and healthcare access. A stronger economy, falling unemployment and other factors may have played a role.

"This is very consistent with what health policy experts predicted," said Dr. John Rowe, a health policy professor at the Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York.

"If you give people insurance, they use it," said Rowe, who was not involved with the new study. "And people who get more care do better than people who don't."

He said the remaining question is how the U.S. healthcare system will accommodate the increasing number of Americans with insurance, especially in light of a prediction that there will be a shortage of primary care doctors in the coming decade.

The JAMA study can be found at: bit.ly/1D6VCG9.

(Reporting by Andrew M. Seaman in New York; Editing by Caroline Humer and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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