The utilization rate for hip and knee replacements jumped in Massachusetts in the wake of its pioneering universal healthcare plan, enacted under former Gov. Mitt Romney in 2006, according to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal.
Researchers compared the volume of hip and knee procedures in the Bay State with corresponding data from New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The rate in Massachusetts rose 37% in the 2½ years after RomneyCare went into effect, according to the study.
The researchers also found that increased access to healthcare benefits minority populations, especially among African-Americans and Hispanics.
"The 2006 Massachusetts insurance expansion was associated with a significant increase in utilization of elective knee and hip replacement procedures after reform across several subpopulations. Hispanic and black people, groups with relatively larger gains in insurance after the expansion, experienced significantly higher rates of increase than white people," the researchers wrote.
Better health insurance also meant more choices among healthcare providers, which translated to slightly lower use of so-called "safety-net" providers, they found.
"There was a modest shift away from safety net hospitals as the provider of these procedures, with a larger shift among Hispanic people and residents of low area incomes. We found no significant changes by area income," they wrote.
Whether the results are duplicated by ObamaCare will depend on provider access and availability, lead author Amresh Hanchate of the Boston Medical Center and Boston University told the Boston Business Journal.