FRIDAY, March 30 (HealthDay News) -- People who have experienced
recent changes in their health insurance status are more likely to
use hospital emergency departments, a new study finds.
The use of emergency departments is an important indicator of
access to care. People who have difficulty obtaining outpatient
care often turn to emergency departments for medical care, said Dr.
Adit Ginde, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and
The researchers analyzed data from nearly 160,000 adults who
took part in the 2004 to 2009 National Health Interview Study, and
found that 21 percent of insured adults and 20 percent of uninsured
adults had made at least one visit to an emergency department
during the previous year.
Further analysis of the data revealed that nearly 30 percent of
newly insured adults (those who were insured but lacked insurance
at some point during the previous year) had at least one emergency
department visit, compared with 20 percent of continuously insured
The researchers also found that 26 percent of newly uninsured
adults (those who were uninsured but had insurance at some point in
the previous year) had at least one emergency department visit,
compared with 19 percent of continuously uninsured adults.
"In conclusion, although adjusted [emergency department] use
rates were similar for insured adults and uninsured adults, those
with recent changes in health insurance status had greater
[emergency department] use," the researchers wrote. "Adults with
new Medicaid coverage were disproportionately likely to use
[emergency departments], suggesting that their reduced
out-of-pocket cost for care was not associated with increased
access to primary-care services."
The study was published in the March 26 online edition of the
Archives of Internal Medicine as part of the journal's Health
Care Reform series.
The Obama administration's health-care reform law is expected to
result in 94 percent of the U.S. population having health insurance
coverage by 2019, the researchers noted.
"Because health policy changes and economic forces are expected
to create disruptions in health insurance status, policy makers and
health care administrators should anticipate new surges in
[emergency department] use," they concluded. "Consistency in
provision and health insurance type may improve access to
primary-care services and reduce patient reliance on [emergency
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