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ObamaCare & the ER

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Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

To the list of ObamaCare promises likely to prove empty, add cost savings from fewer emergency room visits. That's the implication of a new study that found previously uninsured Oregonians made far more ER visits after gaining Medicaid coverage.

Published in the journal Science, the study involved thousands of low-income Portland-area residents who gained Medicaid coverage in a random 2008 lottery. In their first 18 months on Medicaid, they made 40 percent more ER visits than did lottery participants who didn't gain coverage — a pattern that “held true across most demographic groups, times of days and types of visits,” The New York Times reports.

President Obama and his backers maintain that by giving uninsured Americans access to primary-care doctors, ObamaCare will cause ER usage to drop. But that flies in the face of a basic economics principle that this study's authors acknowledge: If a service — such as emergency room care — costs people less out of pocket, they'll use that service more.

With about 25 million uninsured Americans eligible for ObamaCare coverage, expect ObamaCare to produce anything but ER savings. Expect, too, a vicious cycle in which hospitals push for Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare — to pay for more and more emergency room visits as more uninsured gain coverage.

ObamaCare simply can't keep its ER savings promise in real-world practice. It's another reason to repeal this doomed-to-fail law.

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