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Banner: HEALTH CARE INSURANCE

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Emergency room patients’ ability to get needed follow-up care seems to depend largely on whether they have health insurance, researchers conclude.

Of 430 ambulatory clinics in nine U.S. participating in a study, 64% of 430 callers who were privately insured who said they were privately insured were able to get appointments for follow-up visits within a week.

Among callers who claimed to have Medicaid coverage, only 34% reported getting an appointment within a week.

According to the study, published in the Sept. 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, that finding implied a link between reported insurance status and access to follow-up care for serious conditions identified during an emergency room visit.

Among those who told ER staff they were uninsured but offered to pay $20 and arrange payment of the balance, 25% got follow-up appointments.

There were little differences in appointment rates between callers who claimed to have private insurance coverage and those who reportedly were uninsured but willing to pay cash for the entire visit fee, according to the research team, which were associated with hospitals and medical groups in such cities as Chicago, Atlanta, St. Paul, Minn., and Arlington, Va.

The median charge for the emergency room care was $100.

According to the researchers, 72% of clinics did not attempt to determine the severity of the caller’s condition.