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Health Reform Associated With Fewer Behavioral Admissions

Emergency department visits increased less than other states after Massachusetts reform

FRIDAY, Feb. 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Hospital admissions among young people with behavioral health disorders declined and emergency department visits increased less than in other states after the 2006 Massachusetts health reform, according to research published online Feb. 19 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Ellen Meara, Ph.D., from Dartmouth College in Lebanon, N.H., and colleagues examined community hospital inpatient and emergency department use among 19- to 25-year-olds with behavioral health disorders over a seven-year period before and after the 2006 Massachusetts health reform.

The researchers found that the percentage of uninsured dropped from 26 to 10 percent. Inpatient admission rates fell by two per 1,000 population for any behavioral health disorder. Compared with this age group in other states, admissions for substance abuse fell by 1.3 per 1,000 and admissions for depression fell by 0.38 per 1,000. Although emergency department visits due to behavioral health increased after health reform, the increase was lower among young adults in Massachusetts compared with Maryland (by 16.5 per 1,000). Relative to other states, Massachusetts had 5 percent fewer inpatient discharges for behavioral health and 5 percent fewer emergency department discharges among the uninsured.

"Expanded health insurance coverage for young adults was not associated with large increases in hospital-based care for behavioral health, but it increased financial protection for young adults with behavioral health diagnoses and for the hospitals that care for them," Meara and colleagues conclude.

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