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More Children Receiving Medical Care in the ER

Uninsured and privately insured children show biggest increases in California study

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 15, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- More children are going to the emergency department for health care, according to a research letter published in the Oct. 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Children's visits to the emergency department in California hospitals increased 11 percent between 2005 and 2010. At the start of the study, 2.5 million children were seen in the emergency department. By 2010, 2.8 million children visited the emergency department each year. Children on Medicaid made up 44 percent of the visits overall, according to the study. The proportion of Medicaid-insured patients increased over the five-year period, likely due to the economic recession. However, visits from children in all insurance categories increased over that time period, with a particular jump in 2009.

The researchers found that the two groups with the biggest climbs in emergency department use were uninsured and privately insured children. Visits from uninsured children increased 23 percent. And, visits from privately insured children increased 15 percent, while visits from children on Medicaid increased 7 percent.

"The most surprising finding was that the rate of growth of emergency department visits from privately insured children has outpaced that of children insured by Medicaid," lead researcher Renee Hsia, M.D., director of health policy studies in the department of emergency medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told HealthDay. "People tend to think privately insured individuals have access to primary care and therefore go to the emergency department less often," she said. "Our study shows that even privately insured children do go to the emergency department quite frequently and that their rate of utilization is increasing faster than even those on Medicaid."

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