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Visits to ER rise despite MA health law

The Boston Globe, June 8, 2011

Emergency room visits have been on the rise in Massachusetts since the passage of the 2006 healthcare law, much to the chagrin of supporters who projected that the opposite would happen as more people had insurance and were connected with primary care providers. A new study published online shows that the issue may be a bit more nuanced. While overall emergency room visits increased about 4.1% between 2006 and 2008, visits for "low severity" problems fell slightly, by 1.8%, among patients who are poor or uninsured, according to the study posted last month by the Annals of Emergency Medicine. The decline is a small step in the right direction, but it also provides a reality check, said the lead author, Peter Smulowitz, MD, an emergency physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.