Studies attribute better access to surgery to health reform

The American College of Surgeons convened in Chicago last fall, and among the highlights was a spate of studies showing improved access to their service lines as the Affordable Care Act and related reforms have expanded insurance coverage.

General Surgery News ran a roundup of the studies online Jan. 13. Among the items:

  • John W. Scott, MD, MPH, of Harvard Medical School presented a study showing a 14 percent relative reduction in perforated appendicitis among patients who obtained insurance coverage from the ACA or the 2006 Massachusetts Healthcare Reform Act.
  • Andrew P. Loehrer, MD, a research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Codman Center for Clinical Effectiveness, reported that bariatric surgery utilization rose among government-subsidized/self-pay residents across the Bay Sate after healthcare reform was enacted.
  • Loehrer also presented a study he published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons showing that Massachusetts healthcare reform was associated with increased resection rates for pancreatic cancer compared with three control states.
  • Investigators showed a “unique and sustained decline in the rate of emergent colon resection among publicly insured and uninsured patients after 2006 in Massachusetts,” the outlet reported, noting that this finding is contrary to national trends over the same period.

Mariam Eskander, MD, a research fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, points out that increased insurance coverage does not remove all barriers to the receipt of high-quality, equitable heath care.

“Nevertheless, improved access is the first step in improving outcomes,” she told General Surgery News, “and it is a critical one.”

Read the piece.