ER visits rise despite health insurance coverage

Despite the belief that emergency room visits will go down when more people have health insurance, more than 80 percent of emergency physicians reported a rise in ER visits, according to new poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians. And more than 90 percent expect increases next year.

Nearly all of the physicians--97 percent--said that every day they treat Medicaid patients in their emergency departments because they could not find a doctor who would accept their health insurance, and therefore, were forced to rely on ER care. If the new healthcare reform bill provides insurance that reimburses doctors at Medicaid rates, the problem will only be made worse, notes the ACEP.

"This poll confirms what we are witnessing in Massachusetts--that visits to emergency rooms are going to increase across the country, despite healthcare reform, and that health insurance coverage does not guarantee access to medical care," said ACEP President Dr. Sandra Schneider in a statement.

The responding emergency physicians consider patients without health insurance and a growing senior population as the main drivers of increased ER visits (28 percent and 23 percent, respectively).

Of major concern is that visits to the ER have increased at twice the rate of the U.S. population, with less than 8 percent of those patients having nonurgent medical conditions; meanwhile, hundreds of emergency departments have had to shut down.

Since the new reform law fails to directly address these issues, overcrowding in the ER will only get worse, warns Dr. Schneider.

For more:
- read the Hartford Courant article
- here's the ACEP press release