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Reform May Boost Safety-Net Hospital Patient Volume

If the Massachusetts experience is any indication, patient volume may rise at urban safety-net hospitals under health care reform and the Affordable Care Act.

When health care reform in Massachusetts greatly increased the proportion of people in that state with health insurance, many safety-net hospitals feared that low-income patients who had previously turned to them as providers of last resort would seek care elsewhere when they felt they had more choices.  According to the study “Safety-Net Providers After Health Care Reform,” however, these patients – now insured – actually increased their utilization of safety-net hospitals (defined as those that receive at least 20 percent of their revenue from Medicaid and local health care coverage programs) and community health centers.

This suggests that private, non-profit urban safety-net hospitals, which serve large numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients, may retain those patients after reform greatly increases the number of Americans enrolled in Medicaid and helps subsidize the purchase of health insurance by currently uninsured working-class individuals and families.

The studyHealth Care Reform/Flag was published in the August 8, 2011 Archives of Internal Medicine.

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