Effect of managed care on emergency department use in an uninsured population.
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The use of managed care to decrease emergency department (ED) use has been reported with some success among Medicaid and insured populations. Our objective is to determine the effect of a managed care program (the "Program") for uninsured patients on their use of emergency, inpatient, and outpatient services.This was a retrospective, observational study with 3 groups of patients at an urban, academic medical center: uninsured patients enrolled in the Program, uninsured patients not enrolled in the Program ("Uninsured"), and commercially insured ("Commercial") patients. All patients received services at least once annually during the 5-year study duration. Administrative databases provided data on ED visits, hospital discharges, hospital days, primary care visits, and specialty care visits during the preprogram and 4 postprogram years.There were 1,676 Program, 335 Uninsured, and 844 Commercial patients (2,855 total patients). Use of emergency, inpatient, and outpatient specialty clinics by all groups did not change significantly after program implementation. There was a modest increase in outpatient primary care use by Program members.Implementation of a managed care program did not significantly alter ED or inpatient hospital use patterns in an uninsured, indigent population. Providing a primary care provider and health care benefits alone was insufficient to reduce ED use in this population.