Obamacare Leads to Increase in ER Visits

Thursday, 22 May 2014 11:49 PM

By Cathy Burke

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There's been an increase in patients going to the emergency room under Obamacare — the exact opposite effect the Affordable Care Act was intended to have, a new survey shows.

The American College of Emergency Physicians survey shows since Jan. 1, 46 percent of emergency physicians have reported an increase in patients. Twenty-three percent reported a decrease, and 27 percent said the patient flow was about the same.

"We told you this was going to happen, "Howard Mell, an emergency care doctor who is spokesman for ACEP, told Business Insider.

"We don't mind that it has. But we'd sure appreciate some support."

The survey found ER doctors think things will get even worse: Eighty-six percent said there would be an increase in the amount of visits to their departments over the next three years. Seventy-seven percent of those doctors think their facilities are unprepared for the flood.

Emergency care physicians also expect payments for ER visits to sharply reduce, and say just because access to care will improve overall, it doesn't necessarily equate with quality care.

"Emergency visits will increase in large part because more people will have health insurance and therefore will be seeking medical care," said Alex Rosenau, president of ACEP, 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."

The Obama administration said the study comes too soon to draw any long-term conclusions.

"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," a Department of Health and Human Services told Business Insider in a statement.

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