Health Reform

Health Insurance and ER Use

One of the big political selling points of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was that by providing people with health insurance, they can get the primary care they need and avoid expensive ER visits. While the expansion of health insurance never claimed to be cost savings, did the ACA reduce ER visits? A paper by Hernandez-Boussard et al. finds the following:

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) extended eligibility for health insurance for young adults ages 19–25. This extension may have affected how young adults use emergency department (ED) care and other health services. To test the impact of the ACA on how young adults used ED services, we used 2009–11 state administrative records from California, Florida, and New York to compare changes in ED use in young adults ages 19–25 before and after the ACA provision was implemented with changes in the same period for people ages 26–31 (the control group). Following implementation of the ACA provision, the younger group had a decrease of 2.7 ED visits per 1,000 people compared to the older group—a relative change of −2.1 percent.


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