Pent-up demand for health care leads to a spike in emergency room visits and hospitalizations among the newly insured, but those numbers quickly decline as people’s needs are met and their health becomes more stable, according to a new study from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
The study could mean that fears of an explosion in public costs due to the expansion of the Medicaid program, known as Medi-Cal in California, will prove unfounded. It’s even possible that overall costs will decline as hospitals claim less reimbursement for treating low-income people.
The study is more comprehensive and more sophisticated than research done in Oregon recently on the effects of an expansion of the Medicaid program there. That study found that people who were newly insured by the program used emergency rooms at a greater rate than they had before. But the study did not include a follow-up period to see if that higher usage rate declined over time.