A recently published study showed that Medicaid patients have a significantly higher likelihood to make an emergency room visit rather than seeing their primary care physician. Published in the online version of the Annals of Emergency Medicine, the study revealed survey data from about 230,000 adults who answered questions between 1999 and 2009. It showed that Medicaid patients visited the emergency room about 40% of the time within the past year, compared to about 18% of people who have private insurance.
The primary cause for this disparity is that Medicaid patients are more likely to have at least one significant barrier to visiting their primary care physician. These barriers included not having access to reliable transportation, being unable to communicate to their primary care doctor over the phone, and not being able to make a doctor’s office visit during the week because of work or other conflicts.
If a patient had two or more of the significant barriers present, the likelihood of an emergency room visit was much higher. Medicaid patients with two or more barriers visited the ER about 61% of the time within the last year, while privately insured patients did so only about 30% of the time.
Another contributing factor to the increased likelihood of a Medicaid patient visiting the ER is that these patients also tend to be in poorer health overall than privately insured patients.