Study: Rise in ER visits following Medicaid expansion

September 07, 2014
Many people newly insured by Medicaid are seeking treatment in ERs, one of the most expensive medical settings, a study by the Colorado Hospital Association concludes. It also found indications that newly-insured Medicaid patients admitted to hospitals may be sicker than patients previously covered under the same program, which serves more than 60 million low-income and disabled people. The findings have implications for federal and state policymakers managing the coverage expansion. Taxpayers could save millions of dollars if Medicaid patients with routine needs are steered to community health centers or urgent care clinics, as opposed to service-intensive ERs. In addition, researchers showed that newly insured Medicaid patients appear to be sicker. Looking at the broad sample of 25 states, the study found that the average number of ER visits in states that expanded Medicaid increased by 5.6%, when the second three months of this year were compared with the same period in 2013.