Busting a persistent myth.

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If you haven’t noticed, I love some good new research that challenges the conventional wisdom. We’ve got a live one today.

You hear it everywhere you go, from true experts to lawmakers to the average Joe or Joan on the street: The uninsured just go to the emergency room when they need medical care, and that’s one thing that keeps driving up our health care costs.

But a new paper at Health Affairs, authored by researchers from Harvard, the University of Illinois, and MIT, challenges that assumption.

They actually found that uninsured adults go to the emergency room about as much as people with private insurance (12.2 percent of the uninsured made an ER visit in 2013 compared to 11.1 percent of the privately insured) and much less than the people on Medicaid (29.3 percent).

So uninsured Americans don’t actually go to the ER any more than people with insurance: 13.7 percent across private and public coverage.

But the uninsured do, this study found, get outpatient care less frequently.

Much, much less frequently.

It’s an interesting twist on one of the most commonly pondered problems of American health care. The problem is not so much that the uninsured go to the emergency room more than other people.

The problem might be instead that they don’t get other kinds of care as often. Why is that? The authors wrapped up their findings like this:

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) provides the uninsured with a legal right to care through the ED, although it does not protect them against the financial Read More Here