CHAPEL HILL -- An analysis of state Emergency Medicaid spending contradicts assumptions about emergency care provided to recent immigrants, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence have found.
The study appears in the March 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr. Annette DuBard, a research associate at UNCs Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, will present the results Tuesday (March 13) at a JAMA media briefing on access to care at the National Press Club.
The researchers report that in North Carolina, the bulk of Emergency Medicaid spending pays for childbirth and pregnancy-related complications for women who do not have coverage for routine prenatal care or family planning services. Emergency care for sudden-onset problems such as appendicitis and traumatic injuries and end-stage complications of chronic conditions such as kidney failure and heart disease represent the remaining costs. Yearly Emergency Medicaid costs represented less than 1 percent of the states Medicaid budget.
Emergency Medicaid reimburses hospitals for emergency care of patients who would otherwise qualify for Medicaid but are ineligible because federal law excludes undocumented and legal immigrants who have been in the U.S. less than five years. The Medicaid program does not reimburse non-emergency care or care provided to patients who do not meet Medicaid requirements most adults without children and immigrants with employer-sponsored insurance.
"Theres a misconception that a lot of the Medicaid budget is going to recent immigrants," said DuBard, the lead study author. "However, were spending money at the wrong end of care. We can make better use of these health care dollars by increasing access to preventive care, which would alleviate demand for costly emergency care and improve the health of this population," DuBard said.