Here is Megan McArdle’s myth number 4:
Myth: Emergency room use will decline. When health care wonks want to reach for an example of useless care, they inevitably settle on back surgery. When journalists do the same, it’s almost always emergency room visits. The legend goes like this: People who don’t have a primary care physician, or insurance, end up in the emergency room because that’s the only place that will take them. By the time they’re there, they’re a lot sicker than they would have been if they’d been treated earlier, so they cost more. Moreover, emergency room care is incredibly expensive to provide even for routine conditions, so you’re taking a $75 doctor’s visit and turning it into a $1,000 ER bill.
It’s a compelling theory. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually seem to be true. In Massachusetts, ER visits actually rose post-RomneyCare. It turns out that people use the ER for non-emergency care for a number of reasons ― sometimes a painful-but-not-life-threatening condition like a urinary tract infection arises on a Saturday morning, and sometimes people who work for hourly wages don’t feel that they can afford to take off work to go to a doctor’s office. Or sometimes they have a primary care physician, but can’t get a timely appointment ― a situation that got worse in Massachusetts after RomneyCare passed. (Bloomberg)