An observational study of emergency department utilization among enrollees of Minnesota Health Care Programs: Financial and non-financial barriers have different associations

Academic Article


  • Background: Emergency department (ED) use is costly, and especially frequent among publicly insured populations in the US, who also disproportionately encounter financial (cost/coverage-related) and non-financial/practical barriers to care. The present study examines the distinct associations financial and non-financial barriers to care have with patterns of ED use among a publicly insured population. Methods. This observational study uses linked administrative-survey data for enrollees of Minnesota Health Care Programs to examine patterns in ED use - specifically, enrollee self-report of the ED as usual source of care, and past-year count of 0, 1, or 2+ ED visits from administrative data. Main independent variables included a count of seven enrollee-reported financial concerns about healthcare costs and coverage, and a count of seven enrollee-reported non-financial, practical barriers to access (e.g., limited office hours, problems with childcare). Covariates included health, health care, and demographic measures. Results: In multivariate regression models, only financial concerns were positively associated with reporting ED as usual source of care, but only non-financial barriers were significantly associated with greater ED visits. Regression-adjusted values indicated notable differences in ED visits by number of non-financial barriers: zero non-financial barriers meant an adjusted 78% chance of having zero ED visits (95% C.I.: 70.5%-85.5%), 15.9% chance of 1(95% C.I.: 10.4%-21.3%), and 6.2% chance (95% C.I.: 3.5%-8.8%) of 2+ visits, whereas having all seven non-financial barriers meant a 48.2% adjusted chance of zero visits (95% C.I.: 30.9%-65.6%), 31.8% chance of 1 visit (95% C.I.: 24.2%-39.5%), and 20% chance (95% C.I.: 8.4%-31.6%) of 2+ visits. Conclusions: Financial barriers were associated with identifying the ED as one's usual source of care but non-financial barriers were associated with actual ED visits. Outreach/literacy efforts may help reduce reliance on/perception of ED as usual source of care, whereas improved targeting/availability of covered services may help curb frequent actual visits, among publicly insured individuals. © 2014 Shippee et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
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  • Shippee ND; Shippee TP; Hess EP; Beebe TJ
  • Volume

  • 14