There are fewer pieces of legislation more controversial that the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's landmark bill that opened up the health care market and made coverage a mandate for many uninsured Americans. In the beginning of 2014, millions of Americans gained access to the insurance marketplace for the first time, and as a result, the ACA directly impacted physician billing services across the country.

The ACA's impact on the uninsured
Because of the ACA, the number of uninsured working-age adults keeps dropping, according to new figures from a Commonwealth Fund survey. Based on the organization's research, the number of uninsured adults decreased from 29 million in 2010 (around 20 percent of the population) to 29 million in the latter half of 2014 (around 16 percent of the population). This means that for the first time, the number of uninsured adults dropped in 2014. Additionally, fewer adults reported problems handling their medical billing expenses in the last 12 months.

Officials from the Commonwealth Fund explained to Modern Healthcare that health care reforms have created a more even playing field for Americans in terms of medical costs. They also noted that altering cost-sharing could create problems with health care affordability further down the line.

"Excessive cost-sharing in all insurance types could jeopardize improvements in access to care and medical bill problems documented in the survey," Sara Collins, vice president for health care coverage and access at the Commonwealth Fund, explained to the source.

Although there are still many detractors of the bill, all signs indicate that the ACA has allowed many Americans to access care in areas where they might not have been able to previously. According to the survey results, 36 percent (or 66 million) of working-age adults reported at least one cost-related issue with accessing care in the past year, which is down from 43 percent in 2012.

The Commonwealth Fund isn't the only organization that has discovered positive trends in terms of ACA coverage. A 2014 health reform monitoring survey conducted by the Urban Institute showed that the number of uninsured adults who were not senior citizens fell by an estimated 10.6 million between 2013 and 2014, an impressive figure over the course of just one year.

Additionally, the New England Journal of Medicine indicated in 2014 that the percentage of uninsured Americans "declined significantly" since open enrollment for the ACA began in October 2013.

The impact of the ACA on practices
What does this mean for practices? Large and small, providers will undoubtedly continue to see an increased number of patients across all ages and demographics in the coming years as more Americans gain access to health insurance. As such, it is important for practices to have the most robust medical billing services and patient insurance verification tools available to keep up with these growing figures. Proper IT implementation can ensure that providers are handling all of their reporting and billing needs effectively so doctors can continue to deliver stellar care to their patients.