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Oregon health cuts up emergency visits.

Cuts to Oregon's Medicaid program led to a 20 percent increase in emergency department visits by uninsured patients and doubled visits by uninsured psychiatric patients, according to a study published online April 15 in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

A 15 percent cutback in the Oregon Health Plan in 2003 led to a nearly 50 percent increase in hospital admissions of uninsured emergency patients, according to the study. At the same time, emergency hospitalization rates for other groups remained the same, "suggesting that after cutbacks, uninsured patients were sicker overall when they came to the emergency department," said study author Robert A. Lowe, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Policy and Research in Emergency Medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.

The study found that after changes to the Oregon Health Plan--the state's Medicaid expansion program--cut the number of enrollees by 52,000 in 2003, alcohol-related visits by uninsured patients rose by 82 percent, drug-related visits by 173 percent and visits by uninsured patients with psychiatric illnesses rose by 106 percent. In addition, uncompensated care for Oregon hospitals rose from $256 million in 2002 to $509 million in 2004.

The study's authors said recent federal legislation "facilitating similar Medicaid changes in other states may lead to replication of these events elsewhere."
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Title Annotation:STATES IN BRIEF
Author:Currie, Donya
Publication:The Nation's Health
Date:Jun 1, 2008
Previous Article:Lack of health coverage has dire consequences, new report shows.
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