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Opportunities and Challenges for Adolescent Health Under the Affordable Care Act

  • Author(s): Tebb, KP
  • Sedlander, E
  • Bausch, S
  • Brindis, CD
  • et al.

The purpose of this commentary is to highlight some of the key policy changes under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) that have the potential to improve health care services for adolescents as well as to draw attention to challenges that have yet to be addressed. This commentary stems from our prior policy research, which examined the extent to which the health care needs of adolescents were being considered in the early implementation phases of the ACA. This study was informed by a literature review and interviews with health care administrators, health policy researchers, and adolescent medicine specialists. The ACA has significantly expanded health insurance access; however, inequities in coverage and access remain. Primarily, the structure and financing of adolescent health care needs to be improved to better support the delivery of patient-centered, comprehensive care for this special population. Additionally, improvements in youths’ awareness of their benefits under the ACA as well as a greater appreciation of preventive visits are critical. Furthermore, an unanticipated consequence of the ACA is that it exacerbates the risk of confidentiality breaches through explanation of benefits and electronic health records, which can compromise adolescents’ access and utilization of health care services. Greater attention to improving and sustaining health promoting behaviors within the context of the ACA is critical for it to truly have a positive impact on adolescent health.

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