Study: Greater Coverage Not Linked With Fewer Safety-Net Patients
Increasing health insurance access in Massachusetts resulted in an increase in patient volume at hospitals that provide care to low-income and uninsured individuals, according to a study published in theÂ Archives of Internal Medicine, the Los Angeles Times' "Booster Shots" reports (Levey, "Booster Shots," Los Angeles Times, 8/8).
The percentage of insured Massachusetts residents increased from 87.5% to 95.2% in 2009 after the state enacted its 2006 health reform law.
Although hospitals and clinics that serve low-income populations saw a decline in uninsured patients, the overall number of patients increased by about 31% between 2005 and 2009, according to the study. Safety-net hospitals saw non-emergency visits increase by 9%, which is more than 5% higher than the increase at standard hospitals.
Researchers from George Washington University's Public Health Department, who conducted the study, said the increase could be because newly insured residents already were familiar with the safety-net hospitals or because of a shortage of primary care physicians in the state.
"Most safety-net patients do not view these facilities as providers of last resort; rather they prefer the types of care that are offered there," the researchers wrote, adding, "It will continue to be important to support safety-net providers, even after health care reform programs are established" (McCarthy, National Journal, 8/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.