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ACA Turns Two; Has it Improved Quality of Care?

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, March 22, 2012

Lawmakers clearly put a heavy emphasis on quality of care when they crafted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The word "quality" appears 563 times.

But is there any evidence this law, which marks its second birthday this week, has improved quality of care?

Sure, it has made healthcare more affordable with reduced cost-sharing and expanded coverage without lifetime caps for millions of people.

And yes, the law's rules are saving consumers $17.7 billion in prescription drug costs, are allowing 45 million women to receive preventive care with no cost-sharing, and are cutting red tape to eliminate $4.5 billion providers would otherwise spend. Each day brings another press release about how the ACA has improved access to care or reduced its cost to consumers.

But do patients today have a better chance they'll get the right care at the right time? Are the odds better that they won't be infected or otherwise injured by hospital teams and doctors in the process?

And are providers now avoiding more readmissions, saving more lives, preventing more harm, and providing patients with a more prompt and pleasant healthcare experience? Or do we have to wait a few more years to see these results?

I'm going with "yes" and "no"—with caveats.

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