A new study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the uninsured face significant barriers to primary care, highlighting a group that remains vulnerable even after the Affordable Care Act insurance expansions. With trained auditors depicting low-income new uninsured patients, the study found that fewer than one in seven could confirm an office visit occurred if they were required to make payment arrangements to cover the cost of the visit.
And while four in five callers were able to secure appointments with primary care physicians if they could pay in full, the remaining 20 percent could not, despite their ability to pay the full amount for the visit. The typical cost of an office visit in the ten states surveyed averaged $160.
The study appears in the April issue of Health Affairs.
“This research shows that although the implementation of the Affordable Care Act dramatically reduced the number of uninsured people in the U.S., low-income uninsured patients face barriers to receiving important primary care services like screening for hypertension,” says Dr. Brendan Saloner, assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s department of health policy and management and the study’s lead author. “Most physician offices do not offer up-front payment flexibility or low-income discounts to uninsured patients, which impacts access to basic primary care services.”