No Evidence That Primary Care Physicians Offer Less Care To Medicaid Community Health Center Or Uninsured Patients
Author: Brian K. Bruen, Leighton Ku, Xiaoxiao Lu, Peter Shin
The Affordable Care Act increases US investment in Medicaid and community health centers, yet many people believe that care in such safety-net programs is substandard. Using data from more than 31,000 visits to primary care physicians in the period 2006–10, we examined whether the length or content of a visit was different for safety-net patients—those insured by Medicaid, those who are uninsured, and those seen in a community health center—compared to patients with private insurance. We found no significant differences in the average length of a primary care visit or in the likelihood of a patient’s receiving preventive health counseling. Medicaid patients received more diagnostic and treatment services, and uninsured patients received fewer services, compared to privately insured patients, but the differences were small. This analysis indicates that length and content of primary care visits are comparable for safety-net and other patients. The main factors that contribute to differences in visit length and content are patients’ health needs and the type of visit involved.