Just last November, President Barack Obama praised Obamacare as a money-saver by keeping folks out of emergency rooms.
“It means that all the providers around here, instead of having to take in folks in the emergency room, they suddenly have customers who have insurance,” Obama said. “That means those of you who already have health insurance, your premiums will not be subsidizing folks who don’t have health insurance. People will get preventive care, which means that people are likely to be healthier.”
Just like “you can keep your health care plan,” it now appears that yet another selling point of the Affordable Care Act — that pouring more money into Medicaid would reduce the number of emergency room visits, make people healthier and save money – may not pan out.
That’s the decisive verdict of a study of new Medicaid residents in Oregon, where expanding Medicaid actually increased emergency room visits and did not improve the health.
The study compared 25,000 low-income individuals with and without Medicaid. It found those with Medicaid ended up in the ER 40 percent more than those without insurance. In most cases, their conditions were classified as “primary care treatable,” and not warranting emergency treatment.
The Oregon Health Insurance Experiment conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a nonpartisan research group, began the study in 2008 of the expansion of the Medicaid roles in the state, the Daily Beast reported. The Oregon residents were picked through a lottery, who had lower incomes but not able to qualify for Medicaid.
Obama has long made the argument that this would reduce health costs through prevention.
“What happens is, you don’t have health insurance, you go to the emergency room,” Obama said in 2010. “You weren’t getting a checkup; something that might have been curable with some antibiotics isn’t caught. By the time you get to the hospital, it’s much more expensive … we’re a lot better off if we are making sure that everybody is getting preventive care.”
In 2009, Obama said: “There’s been almost a doubling of emergency room care in a relatively short span of time, which is putting enormous strains on the system as a whole. That’s the status quo, and it’s only going to get worse. If we do nothing, then families will spend more and more of their income for less and less care.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made the argument last year opposing House Republican efforts to defund Obamacare, which he said would “force millions of American families to once again rely on expensive emergency room care—or go without care at all.”
Two dozen states have declined the Medicaid expansion, citing cots. But the administration believes that will change.
“Five million peple who would have been eligible for Medicaid are left uninsured,” White House Deputy Senior Adviser David Simas said on a press conference call Thursday. “This is too important from an economic perspective. It’s the right thing to do. We expect more states to approve it going forward.”
The sampling in the study reportedly mirrors the expanded pool of the 13 million to be added to the Medicaid roles under Obamacare. The records showed no improvement in tests for manageable medical conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension.
Nationally, Medicaid patients make up just 16 percent of the population but make up one-third of emergency room visits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
(This story has been updated to included a comment from White House Deputy Senior Adviser David Simas.)
(H/T Daily Beast)