Tuesday, June 07, 2011

RomneyCare Reduces ER Visits

Well, not really. When Gov. Romney signed the Massachusetts universal health insurance bill in to law the idea was to expand access to health care through resources OTHER THAN the Emergency Room.

Things don't always go as planned.

Two reports from Boston.com, one in 2010 the other today show ER visits are on the rise, not decline.

From Boston 2010:

according to a report from the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, expanded coverage may have contributed to the rise in emergency room visits, as newly insured residents entered the health care system and could not find a primary care doctor or get a last-minute appointment with their physician.

David Morales, commissioner of the division, said several national and statewide studies have shown that expanding insurance coverage does not reduce emergency room visits. This is because the uninsured “are not really responsible for significant ER use’’ he said.

You would think someone would have actually, you know, looked at the data BEFORE touting reduced ER visits as a benefit. Guess that was too obvious.

Blue Cross, the state’s largest insurer, has seen a slight decrease in emergency room use among its members over the past year, Dreyfus said. He said that trend could be related to growing use of limited-service clinics, such as CVS MinuteClinics.

Free standing clinics rock. We use them here in Atlanta and I would much rather go there, be in an out in less than 30 minutes, than waiting for hours in the ER.

So did numbers improve in today's Boston.com report?


MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who helped legislators draft the law, said some people who avoided emergency rooms because they were too expensive in the earlier period may be using them more, now that they have coverage, offsetting the progress of moving some people into primary care practices.

Let me see if I got this right.

When people had to PAY for ER visits their tendency to go there for treatment was less than it is now when the majority of the bill will be paid by insurance.

Around here we call that rocket surgery.

Which leads Mr. Gruber to this conclusion.

He said more work is needed to deter people from using the emergency room for problems that are not urgent, through charging higher copayments

By charging people MORE for using the ER you can diminish usage.

Amazing grasp of the obvious.

Thanks to Henry Stern for this tip!
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