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Obamacare Medicaid Expansion Prompts Increase in Hospital Emergency Visits

First Posted: Sep 10, 2014 09:34 AM EDT
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With the Affordable Care Act implemented and the direct expansion of Medicaid, hospital emergency rooms have seen an increase in patients seeking medical attention.

The Colorado Hospital Association found the average number of emergency room visits across states with expanded Medicaid increased by 5.6 percent in comparison to the second quarter of last year. In comparison to states without Medicaid expansion, emergency rooms visits have tripled in states with the ACA.

"This change was greater than expected from the variation over the last two years. In comparison, hospitals in non-expansion states reported a 1.8 percent increase in ED visits between the second quarters of 2013 and 2014," noted the CHA report.

New Obamacare enrollees are also utilizing their health care policies as hospitals have seen a "surge" of new patients.

In Colorado, Medicaid-covered visits to the emergency room increased 38 percent during the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013. The CHA investigated specific cases within Colorado and identified "several emerging trends." One trend was patients arrive to the emergency room with "more complex conditions" than the average Medicaid patient prior to the Medicaid expansion.

"Hospitals located in expansion states are serving greater numbers of Medicaid patients, many needing care for advanced chronic health conditions that were previously left untreated," CHA President and CEO Steven J. Summer said. "These findings confirm that individuals who previously had no insurance coverage are now seeking and receiving health care services -- and their needs are great."

The influx of emergency room visits, according to the CHA, is du to the "considerable existing -- and previously unmet" demand for health care services.

"The true measure of success is finally knowing whether the people who need health care are actually receiving it," said CHA Financial Policy Vice President Chris Tholen. "An insured community is a healthier community."

The CHA represents 100 hospitals and health systems in Colorado but examined data from 450 hospitals in 25 states for the report. Of the 25 states, 13 expanded their Medicaid coverage.

As Latin Post reported, states that rejected expanding Medicaid could pay $152 billion in taxes by 2022, and the money would benefit states with Medicaid expansion, including Washington, D.C. Some states, such as Georgia, have not expanded their Medicaid coverage due to budget constraints. Georgia Republican state Rep. Jason Shaw said his state has been financially struggling to support the existing Medicaid system. Medicaid expansion in Georgia would increase the state's budget by $2.5 billion over the next 10 years.

The Department of Health and Human Services said the ACA can provide approximately 10.2 million uninsured Latinos with health insurance coverage. The HHS noted 8.1 million of eligible uninsured Latinos could qualify for either tax credits to purchase insurance coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace, the Children's Health Insurance Program or Medicaid.

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