Vermont sees surge in Medicaid hospital visits and payments: 7 findings

Vermont has seen a dramatic increase in Medicaid hospital visits and payments, according to a VTDigger report.

This finding was revealed as part of VTDigger's analysis of hospital use data for 2002 and 2013 — the latest year data is available. The data is collected by the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, and published by the Vermont Department of Health.

Here are seven findings from the analysis.

1. Annual Medicaid visits to rural hospitals climbed to 89,000 in 2013 from about 58,000, in 2002, VTDigger found. Medicaid visits to Burlington-based University of Vermont Medical Center, the largest hospital in the state, went from 17,000 to 20,000 during that time period.

2. Data shows Medicaid patients seeking care at a Vermont hospital are looking for outpatient treatment or going to the emergency room.

3. If Medicaid patients do stay overnight in the hospital, they are most often giving birth, dealing with a respiratory illness or addressing a mental health diagnosis.

4. VTDigger also found Medicaid patients are more likely to be women than men. Between 2002 and 2013, women represented about 56 percent of Medicaid patients who visited hospitals in Vermont.

5. Data from the Department of Vermont Health Access show the state tripled the amount it pays hospitals for inpatient and outpatient services between 2002 and 2013 — from $79 million to $245.3 million. The numbers include any hospital Vermont has spent money at — even out-of-state hospitals like Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H.

6. Steven Costantino, the commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, told VTDigger the increase in overall Medicaid spending at hospitals is in line with national trends, and the level number of overall inpatient visits could indicate that more patients are preventing illnesses by visiting their primary care physicians.

7. Vermont Sen. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) gave the publication other explanations for the increases. She told VTDigger new Medicaid patients who used to be uninsured may have higher health needs and need to use hospitals, or the increased outpatient costs could be related to hospitals that are expanding.


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