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Healthcare Reform's Elective Surgery Effects

More insured patients equals greater surgical demand, say researchers.

Published: July 2, 2014

The Affordable Care Act's expansion of the insured patient population could mean booming business for elective surgery providers in the next few years, say researchers at the University of Michigan.

The researchers based this prediction, published online by JAMA Surgery, on surgical utilization trends in Massachusetts, which enacted statewide health insurance reform 4 years before the federal legislation was signed into law in 2010.

They reviewed patient databases from Massachusetts to identify adult patients who had undergone discretionary surgeries (such as elective joint replacements or back procedures) and nondiscretionary surgeries (such as cancer treatments or hip fracture repairs) between 2003 and 2010, a timespan that saw the state's reforms take effect. Patient databases from New York and New Jersey, 2 states which had not enacted statewide reforms, were used as a control group.

Insurance expansion was associated with a 9.3% increase in discretionary surgery in Massachusetts and a 4.5% decrease in nondiscretionary surgery, the researchers note, projecting an additional 465,934 discretionary surgeries on the schedule by 2017.

David Bernard

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