California Healthline: Study Shows Decline in Emergency Services Use Among Newly Insured

by David Gorn

The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research yesterday released a study that lends credence to one of the primary contentions of health care reform — providing health care coverage can reduce expensive emergency department use.

“Once you provide coverage to a population and provide preventive services, particularly for chronic conditions, you can expect a decline in emergency room visits over time,” said Nadereh Pourat, the center’s director of research and lead author of the study.

“In the context of expansion of Medi-Cal and increased health care coverage through the exchange, this is important,” Pourat said. “Everyone is worried about the high cost and use of emergency services.”

The study looked at the California Health Care Coverage Initiative and found over three years that visits to the emergency room declined among newly insured Californians.

Pourat said ED visits increased in the first year of coverage but declined in the following years. 
“It makes sense that you might see a bump in use initially, when people first get coverage, but over time you can actually change behavior and change the number of [ED] visits,” Pourat said.

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