Health Care Costs
Reimbursements for outpatient emergency department visits for Medicaid, Medicare, and privately insured and uninsured patients decreased from 1996 to 2004, according to a study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
The researchers found that although average payments for outpatient ED visits went up over the study period, increases in charges outpaced the increase in payments across all payer groups. Overall, the percentage of ED charges paid for outpatient ED visits nationwide decreased from 57% to 42% during the study period. The study also found that the share of charges paid was consistently lowest for visits by Medicaid and uninsured patients and consistently highest for visits by privately insured patients.
The researchers concluded that the reimbursement decreases, coupled with the growing number of uninsured patients, could threaten the survival of EDs and their ability to continue to provide safety-net care. They recommended continued attention to the financial needs of EDs and hospitals to prevent a decline in the availability of their services (Hsia et al., Annals of Emergency Medicine, March 2008).