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Posted by on Jan 3, 2014 in At TMV | 64 comments

Why ObamaCare will make us rethink ERs

So what about Obamacare and emergency rooms? Will the uninsured stop using them if they’re signed up under the Affordable Care Act? The answer as The Week’s Peter Weber notes is more complex than you might think:

One of the cost-saving theories behind the Affordable Care Act (or ObamaCare) is that when uninsured people get health insurance, they will stop using the emergency room for routine health issues and instead visit their regular doctor. This makes some sense: The ER is typically an unpleasant place with long waits, uncomfortable seats, bad TV, and sometimes disturbingly sick people around you. Doctor’s offices tend to have magazines, couches, and, frequently, fish tanks. Who in their right mind would pick the ER?

A new study in Science dumps a big cup of cold water on that theory. Harvard researchers examined the data from an Oregon health insurance experiment and found that when people got Medicaid coverage, they actually went to the emergency room more. About 40 percent more: 1.43 ER visits over the experiment’s 18 months versus 1.02 visits for people who didn’t get Medicaid. Statistically, that’s a pretty hefty jump in ER trips.

This is probably terrible news for America’s overall medical costs — emergency rooms are an inefficient and expensive way to provide health care, and ObamaCare is expected to increase the Medicaid rolls by more than 10 million. Millions more will buy health insurance for the first time through and other ObamaCare health care markets. And there’s no reason to believe that new Medicaid recipients throughout the country won’t act similarly to the Oregon group.

But there’s much more to this aspect of America’s health care outlook as of January 1, 2014. So go to the link and read the rest.

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