A new study released recently analyzed the survey results of over 230,000 people and found that those receiving Medicaid have a much higher chance of visiting an emergency room over the past year than those with private insurance carriers. The study looked at data gathered by the US national health interview survey between 1999 and 2009. About 40% of Medicaid patients had visited an emergency room within the last year, while only about 18% of people with private insurance did the same.
The researchers found that people who had a significant barrier to seeing their primary care physician were more likely to visit an emergency room instead of their doctor. A significant barrier is something that hinders a person’s ability to see the doctor, such as lack of access to reliable transportation, or the inability to visit the doctor during the workday.
While anyone who had a significant barrier was more likely to visit the emergency room instead of the doctor, Medicaid patients were more likely to have both a significant barrier and an emergency room visit in the past year. People who had more than one significant barrier were even more likely to make an emergency room visit, with about 60% of Medicaid patients making an ER visit and about 29% of privately insured patients doing the same within the past year.
A contributing factor to the increased likelihood of an emergency room visit by Medicaid patients is that these patients tend to be in generally poorer health than privately insured patients.