Study highlights public perceptions, misperceptions about ACA's preventive care guidelines

March 14, 2016

The March 2016 issue of the Milbank Quarterly published a new report by Paula Lantz, associate dean for research and policy engagement, and researchers at George Washington University. The focus: Public perceptions toward the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) guidelines on preventive care. “Patients play an important role in their own health care, especially when it comes to getting preventative services like screening tests, immunizations, and checkups,” said Lantz, lead author of the report.

The ACA requires that most health insurance plans cover clinical preventive services without cost-sharing. However, the study demonstrated confusion and disagreement with the guidelines. “Our study results suggest that very few people understand guidelines for who should be getting specific preventive services and how often,” said Lantz. “We also found that people do not always trust their health care provider’s recommendation to not get a screening test, even when that recommendation is based on the best research and expert opinion.”

Of the nationally-representative sample of over 2,500 adults, only 36 percent reported knowing that the ACA required most health insurers to cover preventive care without cost sharing. In addition, roughly 38 percent believed that the government makes use of federal guidelines, such as the preventive care guideline, to ration health care. 

Story by Alex Berger (MPP '17)

Paula Lantz is associate dean for research and policy engagement at the Ford School and a professor of public policy. A social epidemiologist, Lantz's main research interests include the role of public health in health care reform, clinical preventive services, and social inequalities in health.