The Correlation Between the Affordable Care Act and Emergency Department Visits

Emergency_roomThe University of California published a study, titled “Relationship of Affordable Care Act Implementation to Emergency Department Utilization Among Young Adults,” which found that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) extended eligibility for health insurance for young adults aged 19 to 25 years. It’s fairly unclear how expanded coverage has changed health care behavior, as well as how it promotes efficiency for emergency department services.

Researchers indicated that the objective of the research was to use population level emergency department data to characterize changes in diagnoses noticed by emergency departments among young adults since the incorporation of ACA dependent coverage expansion. Difference-in-differences analysis of 2oo9 to 2011 ED visits from New York, Florida, and California was performed, and they utilized all-capture administrative data to calculate just how the use of emergency department services have changed for clinical categories following the implementation of ACA provisions among those aged 19 to 25, compared to those slightly older (26 to 31 years).

Approximately 10,158,254 emergency department visits made by 4,734,409 patients were analyzed, and after implementation of the 2010 ACA provision, it was found that there was a .5 percent emergency department decreased for younger adults per 1,000, compared to the older group. Young adults’ rates and rate and risk of visits didn’t know change relative to the slightly older group following the implementation of the ACA. With that said, young adults’ emergency department visit significantly increased by 2.6 percent and there was a 4.8 percent increase in visits for diseases of the circulatory systems (eg, nonspecific chest pain).

There was a 3.7 percent decrease for pregnancy-related diagnoses and diseases of the skin (eg, cellulitis, abscess), compared to the 3.1 percent for the older group. The results indicated that coverage increases have kept young people out of the emergency department for conditions that are being cared for elsewhere. Conclusively, the report established, “As EDs face capacity challenges, these results are encouraging and offer insight into what could be expected under further insurance expansions from health care reform.”