A new study of Medicaid beneficiaries in Oregon makes a strong version of this case. The study, published today in the journal Science, finds that adult Medicaid beneficiaries rely on emergency rooms about 40 percent more than similar uninsured adults.
“When you cover the uninsured, emergency room use goes up by a large magnitude,” said Amy Finkelstein, a health economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who served as a lead investigator on the study, in an MIT press statement accompanying the study.
There were no exceptions to the trend. “In no case were we able to find any subpopulations, or type of conditions, for which Medicaid caused a significant decrease in emergency department use,” said Finkelstein.
We’ve seen real-world evidence that Medicaid increases emergency room utilization before, in states like California. But the Oregon study should settle any lingering debate.