To health-care economists, though, the question is more complicated. Health insurance does theoretically let you go to a primary care physician rather than relying on ER docs who are legally required to treat you. On the other hand, it also reduces the cost of going to the ER. And as the basic laws of economics tell us, when you reduce the price of something, people usually want to consume more of it.
Which of these effects is stronger? There’s only one way to find out: test it. And thanks to the state of Oregon, we finally have a good test.
The primary finding was that having health care coverage did not reduce ER visits or overall costs.
Having medical insurance is not the same as having actual care and having coverage does not mean you have access to medical care.
An even more important fact which came out in another study of the Oregon Medicaid system is the fact that Medicaid expansion did not improve the recipients’ health. Two large-scale random tests have been done on health insurance, and both have come back with the same unexpected result: giving people Medicaid, or more generous health insurance, does not significantly improve clinical measures of good health.