Emergency Rooms Getting Busier, New Poll Finds
Expanded health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has led to a rise in emergency room (ER) visits this year, according to a survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). Nearly half of the 1,845 ACEP members who responded to an online poll conducted in April report higher ER patient loads since January 1. Additionally, 86 percent anticipate more increases over the next three years, and 77 percent say their ERs are not adequately prepared for significant increases.
“Emergency visits will increase in large part because more people will have health insurance and therefore will be seeking medical care,” ACEP President Alex Rosenau, DO, FACEP, said in a news release. “But America has severe primary care physician shortages, and many physicians do not accept Medicaid patients, because Medicaid pays so low. When people can't get appointments with physicians, they will seek care in emergency departments. In addition, the population is aging, and older people are more likely to have chronic medical conditions that require emergency care.”
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Erin Shields Britt told the Wall Street Journal that broad conclusions can’t be drawn from the study: “This survey, looking at only the first three months of coverage, cannot speak to the long-term effects of expanded coverage, which will be shaped by our continuing efforts to help people use their new primary care and preventive care benefits and to invest in innovative approaches aimed at improving our nation’s system of primary care.”