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The effect of insurance on emergency room visits: An analysis of the 2006 Massachusetts health reform

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  • Miller, Sarah

Abstract

This paper analyzes the impact of a major health reform in Massachusetts on emergency room (ER) visits. I exploit the variation in pre-reform uninsurance rates across counties to identify the causal effect of the reform on ER visits. My estimates imply that the reform reduced ER usage by between 5 and 8%, nearly all of which is accounted for by a reduction in non-urgent visits that could be treated in alternative settings. The reduction in emergency room visits is most pronounced during regular office hours when physician's offices are likely to be open. In contrast, I find no effect for non-preventable emergencies such as heart attacks. These estimates are consistent with a large causal effect of insurance on ER visits and imply that expanding insurance coverage could have a substantial impact on the efficiency of health services.

Suggested Citation

  • Miller, Sarah, 2012. "The effect of insurance on emergency room visits: An analysis of the 2006 Massachusetts health reform," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(11), pages 893-908.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:96:y:2012:i:11:p:893-908
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2012.07.004
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kowalski, A. & Kolstad, J., 2010. "The Impact of an Individual Health Insurance Mandate on Hospital and Preventive Care: Evidence from Massachusetts," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 10/18, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    2. Anna Aizer, 2007. "Public Health Insurance, Program Take-Up, and Child Health," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(3), pages 400-415, August.
    3. Michael Anderson & Carlos Dobkin & Tal Gross, 2012. "The Effect of Health Insurance Coverage on the Use of Medical Services," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 1-27, February.
    4. Amy Finkelstein & Sarah Taubman & Bill Wright & Mira Bernstein & Jonathan Gruber & Joseph P. Newhouse & Heidi Allen & Katherine Baicker, 2012. "The Oregon Health Insurance Experiment: Evidence from the First Year," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(3), pages 1057-1106.
    5. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1989:79:4:514-516_7 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
    7. Dafny, Leemore & Gruber, Jonathan, 2005. "Public insurance and child hospitalizations: access and efficiency effects," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 109-129, January.
    8. Jonathan Gruber, 2008. "Massachusetts Health Care Reform: The View From One Year Out," Risk Management and Insurance Review, American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 11(1), pages 51-63, March.
    9. Amy Finkelstein, 2007. "The Aggregate Effects of Health Insurance: Evidence from the Introduction of Medicare," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(1), pages 1-37.
    10. Sharon K. Long & Karen Stockley & Alshadye Yemane, 2009. "Another Look at the Impacts of Health Reform in Massachusetts: Evidence Using New Data and a Stronger Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 508-511, May.
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    Keywords

    Health; Health insurance; Emergency room use;

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