Lack of insurance doesn't translate to higher ED use

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Aug. 28, 2006

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Emergency department use varies widely across the country and isn't reliably driven by uninsured or immigrant patients, according to a July Health Affairs study.

In 12 nationally representative communities, there was an average of 32 ED visits per 100 people in 2003, with a high of 40 in Cleveland and a low of 21 in Orange County, Calif.

Though Cleveland had the highest ED use rate, only 7.9% of residents there are uninsured and only 3.2% are noncitizens. Orange County, meanwhile, had the lowest ED use rate even though 18.2% of its residents are uninsured and 15.6% are noncitizens.

What does drive the variation in ED use?

According to study author Peter J. Cunningham, PhD, factors include long waits for physician appointments and decreased availability of community health centers.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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