Study Suggests Expanded Health Insurance May Lead to Better Treatment of Chronic Disease

Researchers estimate that broader insurance coverage may lead to 1.5 million new chronic disease diagnoses.

A new study from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) says broader insurance coverage, like that predicted under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), will likely contribute to better diagnosis and treatment of chronic disease.

HSPH researchers analyzed data from 28,157 people who contributed to the National Center for Health Statistics’ National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that people with health insurance were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with—and, eventually, seek treatment for—chronic conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. For diabetes and high cholesterol, insured people were 14 percent more likely to receive a diagnosis; for high blood pressure, 9 percent.

That information about the benefits of health insurance, coupled with 10-year ACA enrollment projections from the Congressional Budget Office, led the researchers to estimate that 1.5 million Americans would be diagnosed with a chronic condition and 659,000 of them would “gain control of” at least one condition if health insurance coverage expands as expected.

In a statement, senior author Joshua Salomon said the study lends evidence to ACA supporters:

“These effects constitute a major positive outcome from the ACA,” said senior author Joshua Salomon, professor of global health. “Our study suggests that insurance expansion is likely to have a large and meaningful effect on diagnosis and management of some of the most important chronic illnesses affecting the U.S. population.”

Salomon added in the statement that while the projected extra diagnoses are good for individuals’ health, they could put strain on the American healthcare system. “There is urgent need to ensure that the U.S. health care system is equipped to provide high quality care for large numbers of people who will be newly diagnosed with a chronic disease,” Salomon said in the statement.