- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2017

The number of pediatric patients visiting their doctors increased after passage of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, particularly among minority and low-income adolescents, according to a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Despite rates of pediatric visits being lower than recommended, preventive care visits for adolescents increased from 41 percent before the ACA to 48 percent after the law was passed, according to a study led by Sally Adams, a researcher at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital at the University of California, San Francisco.

Annual pediatric visits and well visits increased particularly among minority communities, including African-Americans, Hispanics and those from lower-income groups.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children and young adults have annual doctor visits for preventive care services. Among the policies of the ACA include waiving a co-pay for preventive services and for services recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, according to the study’s authors.

Researchers analyzed data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey on well visits and preventive services for two time periods, before the ACA was implemented — 2007-2009 — and after, between 2012 and 2014. They analyzed responses from 6,279 adolescents in the pre-ACA survey and 6,730 adolescents in the time after.

Of the results, they found that preventive well visits for adolescences age 10 to 17 years old increased by 7 percentage points over the two time periods. Among the second analysis, of any health care visits in the past year, researchers found an increase in visits of eight of nine preventives services, ranging from 2 percent in the pre-ACA time period to 9 percent in the post-ACA time period.

The researchers defined preventive services as outlined by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which highlight at least 47 health screening topics, including tobacco use, depression, obesity, drugs and alcohol, STDs among other health concerns. Preventive services are also categorized by increase time spent in an exam room with a physician.

In their conclusion, the researchers describe the gains as “moderate” — that annual visits for adolescents are still far too low — and that efforts need to build on these improvements, including more education about importance of such doctor visits and an increase in the capacity of the system to accommodate this group.

The authors further highlighted changes and proposed changes to the ACA that will threaten any of the modest gains.

“These are highly challenging efforts given that systems are currently addressing complex changes in the financing and delivery of health care,” they wrote in their conclusion. “At the time of this writing, the future of health care provisions related to insurance and preventive care — all aspects of federal health care policy — remain uncertain. Careful consideration of evidence can help shape deliberations on the best use of federal resources to improve health and health care.”

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