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Who's paying for ER visits

Medicaid pays for more emergency room visits than any other insurance program, according to recent data from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The health insurance program for the poor covered about one-third of all ER visits in 2014 — roughly 44 million of them, up from 26.5 million in 2006.

The big picture: Medicaid has been paying for more ER visits over time largely because the Affordable Care Act expanded the program. People in low-paying jobs that don't offer health benefits also rely on Medicaid coverage.

Data: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; Chart: Chris Canipe / Axios

Here's how ER visits have changed for other forms of health insurance:

  • Because the ACA expanded Medicaid and overhauled the individual insurance market, the number of uninsured ER trips declined by about 9% from 2006 to 2014.
  • ER visits covered by Medicare have increased 29% since 2006, while job-based health insurance has covered fewer visits. As baby boomers get older and retire, they're leaving employer-based coverage and aging into Medicare.

Don't forget: People with health insurance are still susceptible to receiving costly surprise ER bills, usually through no fault of their own.

Correction: A previous version of this chart incorrectly labeled the most recent data point as 2016 rather than 2014.

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