Expanded Health Care Doesn't Expand Patient Numbers - Yet

By  Stina Sieg
January 02, 2014

Health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act went into effect Jan. 1, around the country and here in Arizona. But Valley hospitals say the number of people receiving medical care hasn’t changed – yet.

It’s only been a few days since health care coverage began for more than two million people across the country. And Valley hospitals say that’s not enough time to see an increase in numbers of patients.

Bill Ellert is the Chief Medical Officer of St. Joseph’s Medical Group in Phoenix. He says this expanded coverage should actually decrease the number of people coming to the emergency room, but increase the number seeking preventative care.

“Hopefully, now that people have coverage, they’ll try to seek out a primary care physician and get the care they need before they end up in the emergency room or hospital,” he said.

Ellert adds that many conditions are greatly helped by preventative care, including diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension. But he adds it could take months — or all year — before hospitals begin to see more people taking advantage of preventative medicine. The same day the Affordable Care Act went into effect, so did expanded Medicaid coverage for poor Arizonans.