The Affordable Care Act (ACA) aims to provide health insurance coverage to 33 million currently uninsured individuals starting in 2014, including up to 17 million new Medicaid beneficiaries. Bringing so many new individuals into coverage represents an extraordinary opportunity to improve access to care, enhance preventive medicine, and take steps towards building a healthier population and a more affordable healthcare system. However, coverage only helps if beneficiaries can access a provider when they need one. In the coming years, normal population growth, significant demographic aging, and to a much lesser extent the ACA coverage expansions will increase demand for primary care services. Provider capacity will have to grow accordingly. The ACA anticipated this concern and included provisions that, coupled with other recent developments in the field, address short and long term needs in primary care provider training and Medicaid participation, especially for medically underserved communities.
This issue brief examines key developments in provider capacity related to ACA provisions. While primary care provider capacity concerns apply across the health system, this Brief focuses on Medicaid, where access to primary care is an ongoing concern.