Hospitals are less likely to admit publicly insured children, but outcomes aren't affected

Tuesday, Jan 10, 2017
by Michael Hotchkiss, Office of Communications

Hospitals are less likely to admit children covered by public insurance such as Medicaid than privately insured children with similar symptoms, especially when hospitals beds are scarce. 

But the disparity doesn't appear to affect health outcomes, according to Princeton University researchers who analyzed information on tens of thousands of children who came to New Jersey emergency rooms between 2006 and 2012.

"In the end, I think we came to kind of a surprising conclusion that maybe the problem isn't that too few publicly insured children are being hospitalized," said Princeton health economist Janet Currie. "Maybe the problem is that too many privately insured children are being hospitalized when they don't really need it."

The research was conducted by Currie, the Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, chair of the Department of Economics, and co-director of the Center for Health and Wellbeing, and Diane Alexander, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago who earned her Ph.D. at Princeton.

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