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The ACA’s Zero Cost-Sharing Mandate and Trends in Out-of-Pocket Expenditures on Well-Child and Screening Mammography Visits

Kirby, James B., PhD; Davidoff, Amy J., PhD; Basu, Jayasree, PhD

doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000610
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Background: Starting in September of 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act required most health insurance policies to cover evidence-based preventive care with no cost-sharing (no copays, coinsurance, or deductibles). It is unknown, however, whether declines in out-of-pocket costs for preventive services are large enough to prompt increases in utilization, the ultimate goal of the policy.

Methods: In this study, we use a nationally representative sample of ambulatory care visits to estimate the impact of the zero cost-sharing mandate on out-of-pocket expenditures on well-child and screening mammography visits. Estimates are made using 2-part interrupted time-series models, with well-woman visits serving as the control group because they were not covered under the zero cost-sharing mandate until after our study period.

Results: Results indicate a substantial reduction in out-of-pocket costs attributable to the Affordable Care Act. Between January 2011 and September 2012, the zero cost-sharing mandate reduced per-visit out-of-pocket costs for well-child visits from $18.46 to $8.08 (56%) and out-of-pocket costs for screening mammography visits from $25.43 to $6.50 (74%). No reduction was apparent for well-woman visits.

Conclusions: The Affordable Care Act’s zero cost-sharing mandate for preventive care has had a large impact on out-of-pocket expenditures for well-child and mammography visits. To increase preventive service use, research is needed to better understand barriers to obtaining preventive care that are not directly related to cost.

*Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD

Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT

The views in this article are those of the authors and no official endorsement by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality or the Department of Health and Human Services is intended or should be inferred.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: James B. Kirby, PhD, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857. E-mail: james.kirby@ahrq.hhs.gov.

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