Originally published May 15 2015
Despite promises of the opposite, ER visits keep rising under Obamacare
by David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) Although reducing emergency room usage was one of the stated goals of President Obama's Affordable Care Act, a recent survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians reports that three quarters of emergency doctors have actually seen their patient loads increase since the law took full effect in 2014.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, was meant to achieve goals including better public health and a lower reliance on emergency rooms by getting more people covered by health insurance and thereby securing them better access to non-emergency care.
Analysts believe that the trends that have led to an increase in emergency room usage over the past year are likely to continue in the near future. This means increasing pressure on emergency room resources, and 70 percent of doctors surveyed said their departments are not prepared for these increases.
ER use increasing over timeThe poll found that 47 percent of the 2,099 emergency doctors surveyed nationally said they had seen small increases in patient volume, while 28 percent said they had seen large increases. In total, 75 percent reported some type of increase.
This is a significant, although it is perhaps not quite as dramatic as it seems upon first glance. The same survey conducted last year, when the impact of the ACA had not fully kicked in, found that just under 50 percent of doctors reported an increase in patient load. Thus, emergency room usage seems to have been increasing over time, but that increase has accelerated with the ACA.
The picture could be complicated by regional variations. According to Ohio Hospital Association spokesperson John Palmer, that state saw emergency room visits actually fall by more than 68,000 in the first quarter of 2014 compared with the same quarter in the prior year. However, in the second quarter of 2014, visits were higher than they were in the same quarter the year before. A separate report by the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found no significant increase in emergency room visits linked to the ACA's Medicaid expansion.
Regardless of the specifics, it seems clear that some emergency rooms are certainly seeing more patients since the ACA took effect, and analysts think they know why.
Not enough primary care doctorsThe main explanation proffered for the increase in emergency room use is that Obamacare did achieve one of its primary goals: getting more people health insurance, either under Medicaid or via subsidized private insurance. There are simply not enough primary care doctors in the United States to handle the ballooning patient load, said ACEP president and emergency physician Mike Gerardi.
"They don't have anywhere to go but the emergency room," he said. "This is what we predicted. We know people come because they have to."
The United States has long been known to have a shortage of primary care doctors, even before Obamacare took effect. According to government estimates, the nation will be 20,000 doctors short within the next five years.
The situation is made even worse by the fact that Medicaid's low reimbursement rates mean that many doctors will not accept it.
"It goes to the false promise of the ACA," said health care policy specialist Avik Roy of the free market Manhattan Institute. People newly on Medicaid are "given a card that says they have health insurance, but they can't have access to physicians," he said.
Other reasons for emergency room overuse include previously uninsured patients getting used to emergency rooms; low-income patients having trouble taking off work to see doctors during business hours; and people not understanding which symptoms merit an emergency visit.
Gerardi emphasized that people should definitely go to the ER if they have vague but potentially serious symptoms, such as chest pain.
(Natural News Science)
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