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Increment Noted In Use Of Emergency Departments By Children, Regardless of Insurance Type

Update Date: Oct 15, 2014 07:44 AM EDT

An analysis of emergency department (ED) visits by children, adolescents, and young adults from 2005-2010 found that rates increased across all insurance groups and the uninsured. 

The previous research had documented decreases or no change in children's rates of emergency department (ED) use in the 1990s and the early 2000s. 

Researchers analyzed data of ED visits by youths to acute hospitals across California between 2005 and 2010. 

The number of visits to California EDs by youths increased from 2.5 million in 2005 to 2.8 million in 2010, a change of 11 percent, the press release added. 

Uninsured youths living in California showed the fastest increase in ED visit rates followed by those privately insured. The rate of ED use among youths covered by Medicaid exhibited the slowest growth, but remained the highest in absolute terms, according to the press release.

"Shifts in insurance (from private and no insurance to Medicaid) during the recession (December 2007-June 2009) likely influenced the trends during this time," the authors wrote in the study. 

"These findings suggest that the drivers for ED use differ significantly between youths and adults and that policies regarding insurance expansion may also have varying effects. The divergence from older trends in ED use among youths may also reflect the increasingly central role of the ED in the U.S. health care system, especially during a period of severe economic recession, and could signal an overall deterioration in access to primary care across payer groups, or that even privately insured youths with greater access to primary care physicians are being directed to the ED for care."

The analysis has been published in the October 15 issue of JAMA.

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