"Free care" visits to Mass. hospitals plummeting

A new study by the Massachusetts Hospital Association has concluded that the number of "free care" visits to hospitals have fallen dramatically over the past three years. Such visits declined 28 percent, exactly mirroring the 28 percent increase enrollment in the state's two subsidized healthcare programs. One of the two programs is Commonwealth Care, the subsidized insurance program created by state healthcare reforms. About 300,000 people become insured as a result of the new reforms during the first year, officials say. The report notes, however, that the drop is distributed unevenly around the state. Larger hospitals and teaching hospitals have seen lower levels of ED visits by the uninsured, but community hospitals saw small increases. Hard to tell what that means--but it's definitely a trend worth watching. It's probably excessive to trumpet the state's healthcare reforms as hospitals' savior, particularly given the uneven results, but perhaps something is working right here.

To learn more about the report:
- read this piece from the Associated Press
- read the MHA's analysis (.doc)

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