THURSDAY, July 24, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Children covered by Medicaid, the publicly funded insurance program for the poor, visit the emergency room for medical care far more often than uninsured or privately insured youngsters, a U.S. survey finds.
And kids with Medicaid were more likely than those with private insurance to visit for a reason other than a serious medical problem, according to the 2012 survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Reliance on ER care for non-urgent health problems is an issue because of soaring health costs. The U.S. National Institutes of Health says treatment in an ER can cost two to three times more than the same care in a doctor's office.
Dr. Rodney Baker, director of pediatric emergency services at Miami Children's Hospital in Florida, said one reason the uninsured and Medicaid patients turn to the emergency room is that they can't find a doctor to treat them.
"In many parts of the country, patients cannot find doctors who will take Medicaid patients," he said. With the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, emergency room visits might actually increase, he added.
In 2012, regardless of insurance, three-quarters of children's ER visits occurred at night or on weekends when doctors' offices were closed, according to the report released July 24 in the NCHS Data Brief.
About one-quarter of children with Medicaid went to an emergency room at least once that year, the survey found, far more than uninsured kids (16 percent) or children with private insurance (13 percent). These differences held whether the patients went just once or two times or more.
True emergencies led similar proportions of Medicaid and uninsured patients to visit
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