People who enjoy private health insurance coverage have better access to, and more alternatives to, primary care providers than do their counterparts who are covered by Medicaid and Medicare.
The generally accepted notion that the latter patients frequently go to emergency rooms for non-emergency treatment due to a lack of understanding about receiving treatment simply isn’t true. Access, not “differences in patient-perceived acuity for patients covered by Medicaid [and Medicare] insurance,” is responsible for this well-documented trend.
So say University of Colorado School of Medicine researchers who crunched data on 4,606 patients gathered during the 2011 National Health Interview Survey.
The researchers dug into the data to look for evidence that supported the idea that Medicaid and Medicare patients simply don’t know enough about the health care delivery system to seek out primary care services rather than running to the emergency room of the local hospital for routine care.
What they found was that the Medicaid/Medicare patients could not get a hold of a primary care practitioner when they needed routine human body maintenance. Either they didn’t get responses to their attempts to set up appointments, or they faced such a narrow range of treatment options that a visit to the ER was the only logical choice.
The researchers looked at data for two categories of patients: “those who used the emergency department because they felt they needed to get immediate medical care [i.e. true emergencies] and those who used the emergency department because they had trouble accessing care elsewhere.”