More primary care, more healthcare services, but lower costs in the long run

Healthcare utilization and spending over the short term increased when low-income, less healthy patients gained access to primary care, according to new research.

Lower-income individuals who do not have employer-sponsored health insurance or qualify for Medicaid often lack access to primary care physicians and generally receive medical care at safety-net hospitals, if any at all. When an individual with complex health issues returns to a primary care doctor, more lab tests, X-rays and other outpatient services will likely follow, the Cato Institute found. And a $25 or $50 incentive will help get them in the door.

The results of the study did not surprise several experts who maintained that costs will decrease over the long term as these individuals avoid more serious health complications.

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