One of the favorite arguments of Affordable Care Act supporters has long been that the newly-insured poor will use primary care doctors more and expensive emergency room services less, saving the government money. But a new Harvard study totally contradicts that claim. Researchers looked at Oregon's partial 2008 Medicaid expansion, and discovered that those who got coverage (via a lottery) used all health services more, emergency care decidedly included, the Washington Post reports. The covered visited the ER 1.43 times over the study's period, compared to 1.02 times for those who entered the lottery but didn't get coverage; that's a 40% bump.
They even visited more often for conditions that could have been treated by their primary care physician. The Obama administration tells the New York Times that the study's 18-month time frame was too short, citing a years-long Massachusetts study that registered an 8% decrease in ER visits. But one MIT health economist not involved with the study says it fits into "a broader set of evidence that covering people with health insurance doesn't save money." Which is fine. "The law isn't designed to save money. It's designed to improve health."