Most Popular Surgery Thanks to Obamacare: Knee Replacements

Saturday, May 16, 2015
(photo: Dr. Michael Wind)

Americans are limping a bit less, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (pdf).


A report (pdf) from the Society of Actuaries shows that the most popular “preference-sensitive” procedure undergone by new Obamacare subscribers is knee replacement surgery. A preference-sensitive procedure is one without which a patient can continue for some time, although their quality of life can be improved with the operation. Others are operations for lower-back pain and upper endoscopies.


“These results show how giving health insurance to people who lacked it before can improve their quality of life,” Larry Levitt, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, told National Journal.


The authors of the report studied the newly insured in the state of Kansas, which has similar demographics to the United States as a whole. They found that gallbladder surgery was also relatively popular among those who were recently insured.


Getting more people on insurance has released some pent-up demand for preference-sensitive procedures, which might cause rates to increase in the short term. But once the formerly uninsured get healthy, costs should stabilize. “Just because new enrollees used more services initially doesn't mean that will necessarily be true looking ahead,” Levitt said. “This study may give insurance regulators some evidence to push back on insurers that are proposing big rate increases for 2016 based on how much health care enrollees used in 2014.”

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Knee Replacement Surgery Is the Most Popular Procedure Among the Newly Insured (by Dylan Scott, National Journal)

Indications of Pent-Up Demand (Society of Actuaries) (pdf)


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