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Expanding insurance to the poor through the Affordable Healthcare Act was supposed to reduce the amount of emergency room visits nationwide. However, a recent study performed in Oregon suggests the exact opposite.
The study, according to the New York Times, took a look at thousands of low-income citizens in Portland. Those who gained coverage were 40 percent more likely to make a visit to the emergency room.
The pattern seemed to hold true across all demographics. After people gained insurance, they made trips to the emergency room, even if the condition was treatable by their primary care physician.
Forbes reported that the increase in emergency room visits was made up of people who did not have emergencies, but wanted to be seen right away, or they could have avoided the emergency room entirely if they had seen their primary care physician.
The law could potentially increase spending in the emergency room to half a billion dollars every year, instead of the decrease that was predicted before the law was enacted.
President Obama said in 2009, “I think that it’s very important that we provide coverage for all people because if everybody’s got coverage, then they’re not going to the emergency room for treatment.” However, this study may have proven that statement wrong.
Katherine Baicker, an author of the study, said that she suspects the findings would be “surprising” to many in the debate on healthcare.
Many economists say that it is still too soon to tell if this trend will continue. Emergency room visits make up a small part of healthcare cost and economists predict that, with time, the number of people going to the emergency room will steadily decrease.
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