Mass. data show how reform could affect access

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

How will the masses of newly insured post-reform patients impact already tight access to primary care? The Boston Globe‘s Liz Kowalczyk has found some hints in the latest results from a Massachusetts patient satisfaction survey. The survey involved about 80,000 commercially insured patients and the data is from 2009.

According to new data from the Massachusetts Health Quality Partners, a coalition that includes doctors, hospitals, and health plans, 83 percent of adult patients said when they called their doctor’s office for care they needed right away, they always or almost always got an appointment quickly.

Fewer patients — 78 percent — reported that they always or almost always got an appointment for a routine check-up or after-hours help as soon as they needed it.

To add some context, Kowalczyk compared the results to numbers from the 2007 survey, which was conducted before Massachusetts had fully boarded the expanded coverage train.

Still, said Barbra Rabson, the group’s executive director, the survey showed slight declines in patient access to their doctors, which could be a warning sign of growing strain in the system. “We need to watch this very carefully,” she said.

In addition to the sort of health care access numbers that bear directly upon reform coverage, the survey also included typical consumer satisfaction-oriented questions. By those measures, at least, care in Massachusetts seems to be improving slightly. The one area of decline? Coordination of care.

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