November 12, 2014. DES MOINES: During the first six months of this year, the number of people hospitalized in Iowa without insurance fell by 45.7 percent compared with the same period last year, an Iowa Hospital Association (IHA) analysis has found. The analysis is based on data collected from 101 Iowa hospitals from January through June.
According to the study, out of about 159,000 hospital discharges from January to June in 2014 and 2013, 4,445 patients were uninsured this year compared with 8,181 in 2013.
The reductions are linked to that state’s expansion of Medicaid through the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, which has helped thousands of low-income Iowans gain health insurance coverage. Because of Medicaid expansion, in a six-month span, Iowa hospitals cared for fewer uninsured patients in all settings, including patients admitted for inpatient care as well as those seeking care at hospital emergency rooms and at outpatient clinics.
IHA President and CEO Kirk Norris said, “This analysis provides further evidence that Medicaid expansion is doing what it was intended to do – making health care more accessible and affordable for the 110,000 Iowans who have gained eligibility and coverage.”
For the period January 1-June 30, overall inpatient admissions at Iowa hospitals declined 4.4 percent compared with the same period in 2013. Within that decline, the number of uninsured hospitalized patients with no source of payment for their health care fell by 45.7 percent in 2014.
Additionally, fears that expanding coverage would make care so easily accessible that use of hospital emergency rooms would rise to unprecedented levels have not materialized, the IHA analysis found. Total visits to emergency rooms increased less than 1 percent when comparing the six-month spans in 2013 and 2014, despite approximately 30,000 patients with new policies purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
With more Iowans now insured, hospitals’ charity care losses fell 18.5 percent, yielding a total six-month improvement of $32.5 million.
“Our health care system works best for those who are insured,” Norris said. “Coverage does more than help pay medical bills, it brings people into the system. It helps them establish a relationship with a personal physician and create a medical home from where care can be managed and coordinated with other providers.”
The Iowa Hospital Association is a voluntary membership organization representing hospital and health system interests to business, government and consumer audiences. All of Iowa’s 118 community hospitals are IHA members.