Monday, March 15, 2010

Robert Samuelson's unenquiring mind:

He writes: (emp add)
The uninsured, it's said, use emergency rooms for primary care. That's expensive and ineffective. Once they're insured, they'll have regular doctors. Care will improve; costs will decline. Everyone wins. Great argument. Unfortunately, it's untrue.

A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that the insured accounted for 83 percent of emergency-room visits, reflecting their share of the population. After Massachusetts adopted universal insurance, emergency-room use remained higher than the national average, an Urban Institute study found. More than two-fifths of visits represented non-emergencies. Of those, a majority of adult respondents to a survey said it was "more convenient" to go to the emergency room or they couldn't "get [a doctor's] appointment as soon as needed." If universal coverage makes appointments harder to get, emergency-room use may increase.
Samuelson isn't interested enough to check and see if that sort of thing takes place in other countries where there is universal coverage. He just throws it out there. His citing of Massachusetts doesn't help in any way. ER visits "remained" higher than the national average. Sounds as if they stayed at the same level or declined (you can be sure if they went up Samuelson would point out that fact).

And the logic is lame. "If" universal coverage makes appointments harder to get, then emergency-room use "may" increase. Two uncertainties!


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