Despite Increase in Patients Under ACA, PCPs Report No Change in Quality of Care Provided

During the first year of health coverage expansion under the Affordable Care Act, many primary care providers said the number of patients they saw increased, but reported no compromise in quality of care provided, according to a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Commonwealth Fund.

During the first year of health coverage expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many primary care providers—physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants—said the number of patients they saw increased, but reported no compromise in quality of care provided, according to a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Commonwealth Fund.

While a large majority said they are satisfied with their medical practice after the implementation of the ACA, their views of the health law are divided along party lines, just like the overall population.

“Physicians are highly trained professionals, but when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, they turn into partisans, the same way the general public does,” Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman said in a statement.

Providers are evenly split in their opinions of the ACA: half view the law favorably and half unfavorably. Political affiliation is a strong indicator of a provider’s feelings with 87% of those who identify as Democrats having a somewhat or very favorable view of the law and 87% of those identifying as Republican viewing the law somewhat or very unfavorably.

And yet 83% of physicians—regardless of political affiliation—reported they are very or somewhat satisfied with their medical practice. According to the report, the changing healthcare environment has not affected overall provider satisfaction.

“Indeed, current satisfaction levels are slightly higher than what was reported by primary care physicians before the ACA,” according to the report.

Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation/Commonwealth Fund 2015 National Survey of Primary Care Providers revealed that 59% of physicians have seen either an increase in the number of Medicaid patients they serve or an increase in patients who were previously uninsured. Approximately half of providers in Medicaid expansion states reported seeing an increase in Medicaid patients compared with fewer than 40% of those in non-expansion states.

Nearly 70% of primary care providers said that since January 2014, their ability to provide high-quality care to all patients has stayed the same or improved. And roughly 65% of providers said most or almost all of their patients who request a same- or next-day appointment can get it.

“Millions of Americans have gained coverage since the Affordable Care Act took effect, and previous surveys have shown that most have been able to find doctors and get the healthcare they need,” said Commonwealth Fund President David Blumenthal, MD. “This study provides evidence that primary care providers have been able to maintain quality of care for all of their patients, including those with Medicaid and new coverage.”