One of the most important parts of the Affordable Care Act is the expansion of Medicaid programs. About half of states opted to expand Medicaid to include adults under 65 years old with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty level. Even states that didn’t expand have seen big increases in enrollment, so there is increased scrutiny on the financial sustainability of the Medicaid program with so many newly insured people.
A new study published this week in the American Journal of Public Health by researchers from the University of Chicago Department of Medicine shows that where patients receive care can make a big difference in costs.
The study compared Medicaid claims across 13 states, and on average, patients receiving the majority of their primary care at community health centers (neighborhood clinics that provide primary and preventive care for underserved areas) had 24 percent lower total health care spending than similar patients in other settings. Health center patients also had 22 percent fewer specialty visits and 25 percent fewer hospitalizations.
“Spending on the Medicaid program is a major policy concern, with states across the country struggling with tight budgets and high Medicaid costs,” said Robert Nocon, Senior Health Services Researcher and lead author of the study. “Receiving primary care at a health center is associated with lower overall health care costs, and the study highlights the importance of understanding the characteristics of health centers and their patients that lead to lower costs.”