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Insurance Status and the Care of Adult Patients 19 to 64 Years of Age Visiting the Emergency Department

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ACADEMIC EMERGENCY MEDICINE 2012; 19:808–815 © 2012 by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Objectives:  The objective was to determine whether insurance status is associated with the care of patients presenting to the emergency department (ED).

Methods:  This was a retrospective cross‐sectional analysis of ED visits using data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS; 1999 through 2008). Patients 19 to 64 years of age were categorized as having private insurance, public insurance, or no insurance as their primary insurance. Six components of ED care were assessed: wait time, left prior to discharge, use of diagnostic testing, treatment, instructions for follow‐up, and whether the patient had been seen in the past 72 hours.

Results:  Nonprivate insurance status was associated with all six components of ED care, including higher proportions of leaving before discharge of patients with public insurance (4.1%, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 3.8% to 4.5%) versus patients with no insurance (4.7%, 95% CI = 4.2% to 5.1%) or private insurance (2.2%, 95% CI = 2.0% to 2.4%; p < 0.001). It was also associated with a higher proportion of return visits with 5.1% (95% CI = 4.6% to 5.6%) of patients with public insurance versus 4.7% (95% CI = 4.1% to 4.6%) of patients with no insurance versus 3.8% (95% CI = 3.5% to 4.2%) of patients with private insurance (p < 0.001). Patients with public or no insurance also had decreased odds of ED testing compared to those with private insurance (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] for public = 0.84, 95% CI = 0.80 to 0.88; and AOR for none = 0.82, 95% CI = 0.79 to 0.86).

Conclusions:  Nonprivate insurance status is associated with different care patterns in adults aged 19 to 64 years visiting the ED. Further studies are needed to evaluate how these disparate care patterns affect health outcomes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: From the Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston, Boston, MA.

Publication date: 01 July 2012

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