Getting access to health insurance, and getting access to a doctor, are two very different things. But a new University of Michigan study suggests that the two have gone hand-in-hand in the state of Michigan, despite a rapid influx of hundreds of thousands of newly insured people under the state’s expansion of Medicaid.
In fact, the research shows that the availability of primary care appointments actually improved for people with Medicaid in the first months after the state launched the Healthy Michigan Plan under the Affordable Care Act.
In just those few months, more than 350,000 people — one-third of the previously uninsured working-age adults in the state — joined the plan.
In a paper published in the journal Health Affairs, the research team reports the results of a “secret shopper” study that measured the availability of primary care appointments.
Research team members called hundreds of clinics posing as relatively healthy patients looking for a routine checkup with a new health provider. For those who said they had Medicaid, 49 percent of clinics offered an appointment before the expansion and 55 percent offered an appointment after expansion. For those who posed as patients with private insurance, 88 percent of clinics said they could take them before expansion and 86 percent said they could after expansion.
Overall, wait times for the first available appointment for all patients stayed the same as before the Medicaid expansion took effect, at about a week.
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