Medicaid Expansion Means More ER Visits

In some places, traffic to emergency rooms has increased despite health reform.

Commentary by John C Goodman

Source: Psychology Today

A number of years ago, Governor Romney told me that under Massachusetts health reform people would go to physicians’ offices for care instead of going to the emergency room. He wasn’t saying that Massachusetts would deliver more care. He was saying that the care would be more appropriate and less expensive.

As it turns out he was wrong. Traffic to the ER in Massachusetts today is higher than it was before the state’s health reform was enacted.

The same argument has been used by President Obama and by supporters of the Affordable Care Act. And now it turns out they are wrong too. As the New York Times reports:

The study, published in the journal Science, compared thousands of low-income people in the Portland area who were randomly selected in a 2008 lottery to get Medicaid coverage with people who entered the lottery but remained uninsured. Those who gained coverage made 40 percent more visits to the emergency room than their uninsured counterparts during their first 18 months with insurance.

This is consistent with our own predictions in an NCPA study done soon after the ACA was passed. Ah, if only they had listened.