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Study examines impact of Massachusetts health law on emergency department visits
Date:6/6/2011

ent from 2006 to 2007 and 0.7 percent the following year. In comparison, there was a 4.6 percent increase in ED visits statewide according to data from the Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy. They found a 1.8 percent decrease in low-severity visits for the group affected by the reform law versus the comparison group.

This small decrease in low-severity visits was somewhat contradictory to expectations prior to the implementation of reform, Smulowitz wrote.

"To the extent that policymakers expected a substantial decrease in overall and low-severity ED visits, this study does not support those expectations."

The authors suggest limitations on the availability of primary care in Massachusetts may be a key reason in the limited effect of health reform in ED utilization. Low or non-existent co-payments for MassHealth and Commonwealth Care may also be factors.

"In addition, even with adequate coverage, it might take time and effort to alter care-seeking patterns that have become ingrained in some communities," Smulowitz wrote. "Many of these patients had never had insurance before, so they may have been relying on the ED instead of other care settings."


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Contact: Jerry Berger
jberger@bidmc.harvard.edu
617-667-7308
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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