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Obamacare: After the Hype, the Reality

It’s still early, but vital signs are healthy

The Affordable Care Act is still in its infancy and had to survive a disastrous delivery, but so far many of the most dire predictions have not come to pass, Dan Diamond writes in an article on California Healthline on May 28.

While it is too soon to determine if Obamacare is making Americans healthier, Diamond notes that the healthcare industry seems to be doing just fine.

It was feared, for example, that a wave of chronically ill patients would swamp healthcare providers. The reality is that a trickle of new Medicaid beneficiaries are showing up in some states and that, overall, new patients in the first quarter of 2014 look a lot like new patients in 2013 — in some cases, this year’s patients are healthier.

Athenahealth’s Josh Gray told California Healthline that primary care providers in Medicaid expansion states are devoting a higher share of their practice to Medicaid patients, but “our metrics do not so far support the hypothesis that healthcare reform will unleash pent-up demand,” he said.

Safety-net hospitals warned that the law would cause a spike in uncompensated care costs, but some safety-net hospitals are actually seeing uncompensated care costs plunge, Diamond reports.

“We have seen a steady decline in our uninsured visits,” Roxane Townsend, CEO of University of Arkansas Medical Center, told Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health News. “We did not anticipate this big a drop this quickly.”

Doctors have consistently complained about the headaches the ACA would engender — and even now, nearly 60% of practices responding to a survey by the Medical Group Management Association expect an unfavorable or very unfavorable impact from the law — yet physicians have also acknowledged that the rates paid out by ACA plans were generally equivalent to or surpassed the pay they got from Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement.