Insurance doesn't cut ER visits among young adults


Even with insurance, young adults choose costly emergency room visits over office visits and have the same out-of-pocket expenses as their uninsured counterparts, according to a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Researchers examined 2009 federal data and found young adults have low office visit rates and high ER visit rates. Moreover, young adults insured part of the year had higher ER costs than those uninsured for the entire year.

"Low office-based visit utilization is of concern for young adult health, given their relatively high rates of health problems in the areas of obesity, substance use disorders, mental health problems, unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, many of which can have lasting negative consequences across the life course," the researchers said, Kaiser Health News reported.

What's more, previously uninsured or underinsured young adults who gain coverage under the Affordable Care Act will likely increase their use of and spending on healthcare services while lowering out-of-pocket costs, according to the study.

The researchers also expect the ACA's copay elimination for various preventive and wellness services to motivate young adults to choose lower cost doctor's office visits, KHN noted.

Physicians looking to enhance preventive care should assess the personality types of younger patients now covered under the ACA, according to a study published in March in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Conscientious people are more likely to exercise, eat well and not smoke, making them less likely to engage in poor lifestyle habits that contribute to disease, FiercePracticeManagement previously reported. Physicians who treat young adults can get some sense of these tendencies through their interactions.

Enrolling young adults remains crucial for insurers to keep costs down, but most will find it "financially advantageous" to pay the individual mandate fine this year instead of buying coverage through the online marketplaces.

For more:
- check out the study abstract
- read the KHN article

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