Study: Medicaid expansion prompts rise in ER visits; hospitals also treating sicker patients

Health CareAssociated Press

A new study finds that many people newly covered by Medicaid under the federal health law are seeking treatment in hospital emergency rooms. That's one of the most expensive settings for health care.

The analysis released Monday by the Colorado Hospital Association provides a real-time glimpse at how the nation's newest social program is working.

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It also found signs that newly insured Medicaid patients admitted to hospitals may be sicker than patients previously covered by the program, which serves more than 60 million low-income and disabled people.

Taxpayers could save millions of dollars if newly insured Medicaid patients with routine needs are steered to community health centers or urgent care clinics, not service-intensive ERs.

The study looked at 25 states. Thirteen of them expanded Medicaid, and 12 did not.