Obamacare predicted that expanding health insurance coverage for the poor would reduce costly emergency room visits. A new study has found that newly insured people are actually visiting the ER more often, 40% more often than those who are uninsured. These findings create doubt that the increased coverage will result in lower ER costs. The surge in insured people will put more pressure on emergency rooms, with nearly 12 million entering the Medicaid system. Economists say that emergency room use makes up only 4% of all health care costs, whereas inpatient hospital visits sit at 31%. MIT economist, Amy Finkelstein, says that the increased use of emergency rooms is based on a basic economic principle that when costs of services decrease, people will use them more.
Medicaid coverage also reduces the cost of a primary care doctor visit. Old habits of relying on the emergency room are hard to stop, and it takes time to find a primary care doctor. If a person received proper preventative care at a doctor’s office, emergency room use would drop. The study found that most of the non-urgent emergency room visits were from patients who could not get same-day appointments with their primary care physician.
Tavernise, Sabrina. “Emergency Visits Seen Increasing With Health Law.” Health. The New York Times, 2 Jan 2014. Web. 14 May 2015.