Association of the affordable care act with racial and ethnic disparities in uninsured emergency department utilization. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Disparities in uninsured emergency department (ED) use are well documented. However, a comprehensive analysis evaluating how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may have reduced racial and ethnic disparities is lacking. The goal was to assess the association of the ACA with racial and ethnic disparities in uninsured ED use. METHODS: This study used data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) State Emergency Department Databases (SEDD) for Georgia, Florida, Massachusetts, and New York from 2011 to 2017. Participants include non-elderly adults between 18 and 64years old. Outcomes include uninsured rates of ED visits by racial and ethnic groups and stratified by medical urgency using the New York University ED algorithm. Visits were aggregated to year-quarter ED visits per 100,000 population and stratified for non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic non-elderly adults. Quasi-experimental difference-in-differences and triple differences regression analyses to identify the effect of the ACA and the separate effect of the Medicaid expansion were used comparing uninsured ED visits by race and ethnicity groups pre-post ACA. RESULTS: The ACA was associated with a 14% reduction in the rate of uninsured ED visits per 100,000 population (from 10,258 pre-ACA to 8,877 ED visits per 100,000 population post-ACA) overall. The non-Hispanic Black compared to non-Hispanic White disparity decreased by 12.4% (-275.1 ED visits per 100,000) post-ACA. About 60% of the decline in the Black-White disparity was attributed to disproportionate declines in ED visit rates for conditions classified as not-emergent (-93.2 ED visits per 100,000), and primary care treatable/preventable (-64.1 ED visits per 100,000), while the disparity in ED visit rates for injuries and not preventable conditions also declined (-106.57 ED visits per 100,000). All reductions in disparities were driven by the Medicaid expansion. No significant decrease in Hispanic-White disparity was observed. CONCLUSIONS: The ACA was associated with fewer uninsured ED visits and reduced the Black-White ED disparity, driven mostly by a reduction in less emergent ED visits after the ACA in Medicaid expansion states. Disparities between Hispanic and non-Hispanic White adults did not decline after the ACA. Despite the positive momentum of declining disparities in uninsured ED visits, disparities, especially among Black people, remain.

published proceedings

  • BMC Health Serv Res

altmetric score

  • 7.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Ukert, B., & Giannouchos, T. V.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Ukert, Benjamin||Giannouchos, Theodoros V

publication date

  • November 2023