LA Times: Expanding Medicaid increases ER visits in Oregon study

ER visits                                            Emergency room patients wait to be seen.                                                 (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times / June 28, 2012)                                        

By Monte Morin                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

An Oregon Medicaid expansion program found that low-income adults who were covered by government health insurance had visited  hospital emergency rooms 40% more often than other adults.                                            

The study, published online Thursday in the journal Science, comes at a time when many states are expanding Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

While federal and state policymakers have argued that expanding Medicaid would reduce costly and inefficient use of hospital emergency rooms by increasing access to primary healthcare, the Science study suggests this is not the case.

“When you cover the uninsured, emergency room use goes up by a large magnitude,” said senior study author and MIT economics professor Amy Finkelstein. “In no case were we able to find any subpopulations, or type of conditions, for which Medicaid caused a significant decrease in emergency department use.”

The study sample, made up mostly of white urban-dwelling patients, showed an increase in ER use after 18 months, and the increase was larger for men than it was for women. 

The study was tied to a 2008 Medicaid expansion program in Oregon, in which officials held a lottery to enroll 30,000 eligible adults out of a total pool of 90,000. 

Among other eligibility requirements, participants had to be between the ages of 19 and 64 and earn less than $10,400 a year as an individual, or less than $21,200 for a family of four.

When surveyed by researchers, Medicaid recipients said coverage had helped improve their general health, reduce depression and relieve financial pressure, although medical data failed to show a significant change in measurable health indicators such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels, the study authors wrote.

Researchers also noted that…

Continue Reading here: http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-expanding-medicaid-increases-emergency-room-visits-study-finds-20140102,0,2102014.story#ixzz2pMNY2qnv

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