By Sarah Ferris - 03/23/15 11:09 AM EDT
A massive expansion of insurance programs like Medicaid and a drop in emergency room visits saved hospitals at least $7.4 billion over the last year, the Obama administration announced Monday.
With millions more people covered under ObamaCare last year, hospitals faced fewer bills from patients who lacked insurance and were unable to pay. Hospitals also saw fewer emergency room visits, which rack up far higher costs and often leave hospitals with the tab.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the findings to mark the fifth year since the passage of ObamaCare.
Nearly 70 percent of those savings came from states that have expanded the eligibility for Medicaid under ObamaCare. The 29 states with Medicaid expansions saved a total of $5 billion last year, compared to the $2.4 billion saved in states that did not expand the program.
The government’s report — which focuses on the benefits of Medicaid expansion — is an effort to entice states that have been politically resistant to expanding the program.
If all states had allowed more people to sign up for Medicaid, their hospitals could have saved an extra $1.4 billion, the report finds.
HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell celebrated the results Monday at a press conference with the Democratic governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, who has fought to expand Medicaid in his state but so far failed to do so.
Burwell is currently working with six governors, including McAuliffe, to expand the program. Another 16 states have refused to do the expansion.
Under ObamaCare, all costs of expanding Medicaid are covered by the federal government until 2017. Many conservative governors and legislatures have criticized the effort to broaden Medicaid as an explosion of the government’s already costly entitlement programs.