As the dust continues to settle in the aftermath of the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), data shows that healthcare providers in both ambulatory and acute settings have seen positive impacts from the law. Voters across the political spectrum now point to high drug costs as their biggest healthcare concern, indicating that the ACA will likely play a smaller role in the 2016 presidential election, and giving providers confidence that the benefits they’ve seen thus far are likely to remain.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has found that the majority of primary care providers have not been overwhelmed by the greater demand for their services, with most reporting their ability to provide high-quality care has stayed the same or even improved since the law went into effect. This holds true even for the group of physicians who were most affected by the change—those who accept Medicaid and practice in states that expanded their Medicaid programs.
Hospitals are experiencing beneficial effects as well, with Fitch Ratings reporting positive trends at both for-profit and not-for-profit institutions. The numbers thus far show that even with flat inpatient volumes, hospitals have maintained good margins due to the increased number of insured patients, which has resulted in less bad debt and less demand for charity care.
Modern Healthcare reports that 53 percent of healthcare providers plan to increase capital spending over the next five years—up 8 percent from the figure reported in 2012. “The uptick,” according to the publication, “comes as the future of the Affordable Care Act has been assured in the courts and providers have found the new regulations manageable, and even beneficial.”
With all this good news, what challenges are on the horizon? The Wall Street Journal points to consumer issues like the growth in deductibles and the aforementioned drug costs. For providers, pending insurance mergers also threaten more change, as do value-based reimbursement models and the greater emphasis on outpatient care. But now that the industry has a little more certainty than in past years, trends indicate that both patients and providers are ready to move forward.