Obama health law hasn’t increased doctor burden, study finds

The implementation of the national health care overhaul has not, as once feared, been a burden to doctors, according a new report from a Massachusetts health care technology company and a New Jersey foundation.

Even while 10 million Americans gained insurance coverage last year through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, the proportion of new patients visiting primary care providers only rose slightly, to 22.9 percent in 2014 from 22.6 percent in 2013, the report said.

And the new patients were no sicker than the patients those doctors saw in years past, said Josh Gray, vice president of research at athenahealth Inc., a Watertown company that provides electronic health records and other software to doctors nationwide.


“There were actually a lot of people concerned that when people got insurance, some of them would have pent-up demand for untreated health problems, and that the demand would overwhelm doctors,” Gray said. “We really haven’t seen that. The flood of new patients never really materialized.”

The report doesn’t say why doctors haven’t seen an upswing in new patients, but Gray said one explanation could be that people who sought care in hospital emergency rooms and community health clinics in the past continued to go those sites, even after they were insured.

Athenahealth compiled the report using data from nearly 16,000 doctors and other providers, such as nurse practitioners, across the United States. The report was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation of Princeton, N.J.

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at priyanka.mccluskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.