A Decade of Health Care Access Declines for Adults Holds Implications for Changes in the Affordable Care Act

The pending Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act and the fall presidential election raise concerns about what would happen if the insurance expansion promised by the landmark health reform law were to be curtailed.

This paper’s analysis of national survey estimates found that access to health care and use of health services for adults ages 19–64, the primary targets of the Affordable Care Act, deteriorated between 2000 and 2010, particularly among those who were uninsured. More than half of uninsured U.S. adults did not see a doctor in 2010, and only slightly more than a quarter of these adults were seen by a dentist. The authors also found that children—many of whom qualify for public coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program—generally maintained or improved their access to care during the same period. This provides a reason for optimism about the ability of the coverage expansion in the Affordable Care Act to improve access for adults, but it suggests that eliminating the law or curtailing the coverage expansion could result in continued erosion of adults’ access to care.