The Influence Of Medicare for All On Reimbursement For Emergency Care Treat-and-Release Visits

Abstract [from journal]

Study objective: Single-payer health care is supported by most Americans, but the effect of single payer on any particular sector of the health care market has not been well explored. We examine the effect of 2 potential single-payer designs, Medicare for All and an alternative including Medicare and Medicaid, on total payments and out-of-pocket spending for treat-and-release emergency care (patients discharged after an emergency department [ED] visit).

Methods: We used the 2013 to 2016 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to determine estimates of payments made for ED visits by insurance type, and the 2015 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey to estimate the proportion of ED visits covered by each insurance type.

Results: We found that total payments were predicted to increase from $85.5 billion to $89.0 billion (range $81.3 to $99.8 billion) in the Medicare-only scenario and decrease to $79.4 billion (range $71.6 to $87.2 billion) under Medicare/Medicaid, whereas out-of-pocket costs were predicted to decrease from $116 per visit to $45 with Medicare and to $36 with Medicare/Medicaid.

Conclusion: In this study of ED treat-and-release patients, a transition to a Medicare for All system may increase ED reimbursement and reduce consumer out-of-pocket costs, whereas a system that maintains Medicaid in addition to Medicare could reduce total payments for emergency care.