(March 2014) Nationalized medical insurance proponents, at the federal and Arkansas levels claim their policies will lead to a reduction in hospital emergency room visits as the uninsured obtain coverage.  Yet emergency room incidence in Massachusetts, oft-cited by proponents, remains greater than the U.S. average, data1 reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation show.


Proponents cite Massachusetts because it was the first state to mandate universal medical insurance at the state level. Massachusetts reported 488 emergency room visits per 1,000 population versus 396 for the U.S. in 2006, the year its policy was approved.  Massachusetts reported 468 visits per 1,000 population versus 415 for the U.S. in 2011, which is the most recent year that data has been reported.


Arkansas' annual incidence of emergency room visits has been greater than the U.S. average in the 21st century2.  The District of Columbia reported the highest incidence in 10 of 12 years in the period, the data show.3


Arkansas Proponents Ignore Best Practices in Other States


A select group of 16 states reported an annual incidence of emergency room visits less than the U.S. average each year in the period. They are as follows:


(West) Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington;

(Rocky Mountain) Idaho, Colorado, Montana, and Utah;

(Plains) Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota;

(Upper Midwest) Minnesota and Wisconsin.


Many utilize best practices overlooked by Arkansas policymakers.  One example is Washington, which saved $33.6 million in FY 2013.4


--Greg Kaza

1 Kaiser Family Foundation, http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/emergency-room-visits/

2 Arkansas emergency room visits per 1,000 population increased in the period from 437 (2000) to 474 (2011).

3 Twenty-two (22) states, including three in the Southeast region (Florida, Georgia, South Carolina)  reported fewer emergency room visits in 2011 than the U.S. average.

4 http://www.wsha.org/ERemergencies.cfm