The Affordable Care Act Decreased the Proportion of Uninsured Patients in a Safety Net Orthopaedic Clinic

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Abstract

Background

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was approved in 2010, substantially altering the economics of providing and receiving healthcare services in the United States. One of the primary goals of this legislation was to expand insurance coverage for under- and uninsured residents. Our objective was to examine the effect of the ACA on the insurance status of patients at a safety net clinic. Our institution houses a safety net clinic that provides the dominant majority of orthopaedic care for uninsured patients in our state. Therefore, our study allows us to accurately examine the magnitude of the effect on insurance status in safety net orthopaedic clinics.

Questions/purposes

(1) Did the ACA result in a decrease in the number of uninsured patients at a safety net orthopaedic clinic that provides the dominant majority of orthopaedic care for the uninsured in the state? (2) Did the proportion of patients insured after passage of the ACA differ across age or demographic groups in one state?

Methods

We retrospectively examined our longitudinally maintained adult orthopaedic surgery clinic database from January 2009 to March 2015 and collected visit and demographic data, including zip code income quartile. Based on the data published by the Rhode Island Department of Health, our clinic provides the dominant majority of orthopaedic care for uninsured patients in our state. Therefore, examination of the changes in the proportion of insurance status in our clinic allows us to assess the effect of the ACA on the state level. Univariate and multivariable logistic regression analyses were used to determine the relationship between demographic variables and insurance status. Adjusted odds ratios and 95% CIs were calculated for the proportion of uninsured visits. The proportion of uninsured visits before and after implementation of the ACA was evaluated with an interrupted time-series analysis. The reduction in the proportion of patients without insurance between demographic groups (ie, race, gender, language spoken, and income level) also was compared using an interrupted time-series design.

Results

There was a 36% absolute reduction (95% CI, 35%-38%; p < 0.001) in uninsured visits (73% relative reduction; 95% CI, 71%-75%; p < 0.001). There was an immediate 28% absolute reduction (95% CI, 21%-34%; p < 0.001) at the time of ACA implementation, which continued to decline thereafter. After controlling for potential confounding variables such as gender, race, age, and income level, we found that patients who were white, men, younger than 65 years, and seen after January 2014 were more likely to have insurance than patients of other races, women, older patients, and patients treated before January 2014.

Conclusions

After the ACA was implemented, the proportion of patients with health insurance at our safety net adult orthopaedic surgery clinic increased substantially. The reduction in uninsured patients was not equal across genders, races, ages, and incomes. Future studies may benefit from identifying barriers to insurance acquisition in these subpopulations. The results of this study could affect orthopaedic practices in the United States by guiding policy decisions regarding health care.

Level of Evidence

Level III, therapeutic study

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