'Consistency in provision of health insurance type improves access to primary-care services and reduces patient reliance on emergency department services.'
This was reported in a study undertaken by Dr. Adit Ginde, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and his colleagues.
On the other hand, changes in health insurance status drive people to visit Emergency Rooms more frequently. This is because, 'health policy changes and economic forces are expected to create disruptions in health insurance status, policy makers and health care administrators should anticipate new surges in emergency department use,' the researchers said.
Emergency departments are often used by people who have difficulty accessing outpatient care. It is, therefore, an important indicator of access to medical care.
Data was analyzed from nearly 160,000 adults who took part in the 2004 to 2009 National Health Interview Study. It was found that 21 percent of insured adults and 20 percent of uninsured adults had made at least one visit to an emergency department during the previous year.
Further analysis of the data revealed that nearly 30 percent of newly insured adults (those who were insured but lacked insurance at some point during the previous year) had at least one emergency department visit, compared with 20 percent of continuously insured adults.
The researchers also found that 26 percent of newly uninsured adults (those who were uninsured but had insurance at some point in the previous year) had at least one emergency department visit, compared with 19 percent of continuously uninsured adults.
'In conclusion, although adjusted emergency department use rates were similar for insured adults and uninsured adults, those with recent changes in health insurance status had greater emergency department use,' the researchers wrote.
'Adults with new medical coverage were disproportionately likely to use emergency departments, suggesting that their reduced out-of-pocket cost for care was not associated with increased access to primary-care services.'
The study was published in the March 26 online edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine as part of the journal's Health Care Reform series.
The Obama administration's health-care reform law is expected to result in 94 percent of the U.S. population having health coverage by 2019, the researchers noted.