HHS: Uninsured account for nearly one-fifth of ED visits

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Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has released new data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample--a U.S. all-payor emergency department (ED) database--which found that uninsured persons accounted for nearly one-fifth of the 120 million hospital-based ED visits in 2006.

"Our healthcare system has forced too many uninsured, rural and low-income Americans to depend on the emergency room for the care they need," Sebelius said.

The Nationwide Emergency Department Sample is designed to help public health experts, policymakers, healthcare administrators, researchers, journalists and others find the data they need to answer questions about care that occurs in U.S. hospital EDs. The database is managed by HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and generates national estimates on the number of ED visits in all community hospitals, by region, urban/rural location, teaching status, ownership and trauma designation. It also provides information on acute management of patients for all visits, including why patients were seen in the emergency department, the treatments they received, what happened to them at the end of the visit (admitted to the hospital, discharged home, transferred to another hospital, died in the emergency room or left against medical advice), the charge for their care and who was billed.

The Nationwide Emergency Department Sample contains 26 million records from ED visits from approximately 1,000 community hospitals nationwide, which represents 20 percent of all U.S. hospital EDs. The database also provides weighted calculations for national estimates of the 120 million ED visits in 2006.

"The new database will give emergency planners and other policymakers the data they need to help improve the quality, safety and effectiveness of emergency medical care," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, MD.

AHRQ also released its latest Nationwide Inpatient Sample--a U.S. database on hospital care, covering all patients, regardless of their type of insurance or whether they were insured. The 2007 Nationwide Inpatient Sample provides users with a look at why patients were hospitalized, the treatments and procedures they received and what happened to them at discharge. Researchers can use the Nationwide Inpatient Sample to examine trend data as far back as 1988. The 2007 Nationwide Inpatient Sample is based on discharge data from eight million hospital stays at more than 1,000 community hospitals.

The two databases, as well as the 2006 Kids' Inpatient Database on pediatric inpatient care, are part of AHRQ's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), a federal-state-industry partnership for building a standardized, multi-state health data system. In addition, HCUP includes software tools and statistical reports to inform policymakers, health system leaders, researchers and the public.

HCUP databases can be accessed by using the AHRQ online query tool, HCUPnet.