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Child's Loss of Medicaid Raises Community's Health Costs

Increase largely due to more emergency department visits, longer hospital stays

THURSDAY, May 17 (HealthDay News) -- A 10 percent reduction in the number of children who receive Medicaid, and thus become uninsured, would increase annual community health costs by about $2,100 per child, largely due to more emergency department visits and longer hospital stays, according to a study in the May issue of Pediatrics.

Mary E. Rimsza, M.D., from Arizona State University in Tempe, and colleagues compared the health care use in 2004 of 43,313 uninsured children and 168,722 children insured by Medicaid/State Children's Health Insurance Program, who were living in the Phoenix metropolitan area. They then estimated the impact of a 10 percent disenrollment of the insured children.

The researchers found that disenrollment would lead to an increase of $2,121 annually in health costs for each child disenrolled, primarily due to longer hospital stays and more care being received in the emergency department rather than ambulatory settings. Loss of insurance accounted for 69 percent of the change in emergency department visits, 58 percent of the change in hospital stays and 74 percent of the change in ambulatory visits.

"Programmatic changes that result in disenrollment from public insurance programs will increase the number of emergency department visits and hospital days as well as the total community costs of health care," Rimsza and colleagues conclude.

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