Research suggesting that Medicaid expansion may not lead to a reduction in emergency department (ED) use was covered on one of last night’s national news broadcasts, in print in several newspapers, including in two front-page stories, and on several websites. Nearly all sources point out that the findings appear to refute the contention, often espoused by supporters of the Affordable Care Act, that expanding Medicaid would reduce ED use. The CBS Evening News (1/2, story 5, 2:00, Dubois) reported, “A new report out today calls into question one of the main goals of the” ACA: “to get people to stop using the” ED “as their primary care doctor by making more of them eligible for Medicaid.”
In a front-page story, the New York Times (1/3, A1, Tavernise, Subscription Publication) reports that the research, “published in the journal Science, compared thousands of low-income people in the Portland,” Oregon “area who were randomly selected in a 2008 lottery to get Medicaid coverage with people who entered the lottery but remained uninsured.” Individuals “who gained coverage made 40 percent more visits to the” ED “than their uninsured counterparts.” The researchers found that “the pattern was so strong that it held true across most demographic groups, times of day, and types of visits, including for conditions that were treatable in primary care settings.”
— “Emergency Visits Seen Increasing With Health Law, “Sabrina Tavernise, The New York Times, January 02, 2014.