Good news or bad news? You make the call.

A new report in Health Plan Week finds that although ER visits ticked up slightly, hospital admissions took a sharp dive during the fourth quarter of 2008, compared to the same period in '07. Analysts cited in the article blame higher financial burdens for patients (copays, deductibles) combined with the economic downturn for the decline.

While decreased utilization sounds like a benefit manager's dream come true, is it really? HPW sources also say the decline in hospital utilization could still prove costly, as people put off necessary services then end up needing more significant procedures later.

What say you? Is concern over declining utilization valid (as this EBN contributor contends), or just looking a gift horse in the mouth? Comment and let me know.

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