One "hidden" benefit of the Affordable Care Act is its potential to make primary care more accessible. The U.S. has long lagged behind other industrialized countries on primary care—at great cost to our health and our economy. Throughout the legislation are provisions that, if considered together and implemented effectively, will strengthen primary care for all Americans. With stronger primary care, people will be more likely to receive recommended preventive care and timely care for medical problems before they become serious and more costly to treat.
In a new issue brief, my colleagues and I highlight how health care reform aims to expand and train the primary care workforce, improve provider reimbursement and patient incentives for primary care services, and support innovative approaches to delivering care. Where possible, we estimated the potential impact of these primary care reforms on patients, providers, and payers. For example:
The Affordable Care Act will also insure an additional 32 million Americans—people who will soon seek out primary care and make the need to make investments in the primary care system more essential than ever. As we observe in the brief, if patients and physicians are to reap the benefits of a strong primary care system, it will be critical for these provisions to be implemented together at both the federal and state levels. Successful implementation will depend on effective coordination between Medicare and Medicaid, and between public and private payers. Furthermore, it will depend on funding for reforms that support communities and the primary care workforce. In order to improve the quality of health care services and slow the rate of health care spending, we need to follow through on the commitments that have been made to build a stronger primary care system in the United States.