ACEP Takes Issue with Statement by Mitt Romney

If Policymakers Continue To Take Emergency Care for Granted, It Eventually Will Not Be There At All

WASHINGTON, Sept. 24, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- "Emergency care is not health insurance," according to Dr. David Seaberg, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), responding to a statement by Governor Mitt Romney on 60 Minutes last night about how uninsured patients get medical care in emergency rooms.


"All patients need health insurance that gives them access to primary care doctors and medical specialists, as well as high-quality emergency care," said Dr. Seaberg.  "However, our health care system is failing, because even patients with health insurance are having trouble getting timely access to their primary care physicians.  When their medical conditions worsen, they seek emergency care. What will happen when millions more people will be added to the Medicaid rolls?  Emergency departments have become a health care safety net for everyone, but that safety net is breaking.  If you continue to take emergency care for granted, and don't support it, it eventually won't be there for anyone."

Dr. Seaberg said that policymakers and presidential candidates continue to perpetuate myths about emergency medicine.

"Despite Scott Pelley's [60 Minutes] statement about the expense of emergency care, emergency care represents less than 2 percent of the nation's health care dollar," said Dr. Seaberg.  "And the reality is, most people seeking emergency care are having medical emergencies.  Even Medicaid patients are coming with urgent or serious symptoms."

Visits to emergency departments climbed nearly 10 percent in one year to a new high of more than 136 million visits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  More than 85 percent of patients had health insurance, and only 8 percent were classified as non-urgent, indicating that most people are appropriately seeking care. 

"Emergency visits will increase despite health care reform," said Dr. Seaberg.  "Hundreds of emergency departments have closed, related to providing uncompensated care, leaving fewer facilities to see patients.  This means more and more patients will rely on fewer resources.  Emergency physicians and hospitals have shouldered a large part of financial burden for the uninsured by incurring billions of dollars of uncompensated care each year."

ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.

SOURCE American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)