May 27 2014

ER Visits on the Rise Under ObamaCare

Patrice J. Lee

When President Obama and his allies were selling ObamaCare to the public, they made a number of promises that have not turned out to be true. Period.

One of the big promises was that the uninsured would no longer use emergency room services for their primary care. Instead they would have their own doctors for regular ailments. In addition, they would be able to pay for their services instead of having taxpayers and other customers pick up the slack. These savings would cumulatively lower healthcare costs across the board.

We shouldn't be surprised that this is now another broken promise about ObamaCare.

Earlier this year, we reported that Oregon was experiencing a spike in emergency room visits by newly insured Americans through Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare. Now, we have more evidence that this is nationwide problem.

According to a new poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians, nearly half of ER doctors say they are seeing more patients since key provisions of ObamaCare took effect on Jan. 1. In addition, 86 percent expect emergency visits to increase over the next three years and 77 percent (more than three-fourths) say their ERs are not adequately prepared for significant increases.

Here’s more from the survey:

"Emergency visits will increase in large part because more people will have health insurance and therefore will be seeking medical care," said Alex Rosenau, DO, FACEP, president of ACEP.  "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 data suggest that states that expanded Medicaid are more likely to see increases in the volume of Medicaid emergency patients.  Dr. Rosenau said that policymakers need to make sure there are adequate resources to care for growing numbers of emergency patients.

"Long-term solutions, such as increasing the supply of primary care physicians, will take years to develop and will not solve our immediate and short-term problems," said Dr. Rosenau.

When asked about the most important policy solution to improve emergency care, the top response (32 percent) was "enacting liability reform."

"The lack of medical liability limits is directly linked to workforce shortages in medicine, especially among specialists called to see patients in the emergency department," said Dr. Rosenau.  "Emergency patients tend to be more critically ill and have higher risks of bad outcomes, and some specialists are simply unwilling to take the risk of being sued."

This survey provides a wealth of insight into what doctors and hospitals are experiencing because of ObamaCare and the solutions they propose. For example, when asked about other issues related to implementing ObamaCare, just over one-third (35 percent) of emergency physicians report seeing more Medicaid patients, and 27 percent are seeing fewer privately insured patients. Long term, only 34 percent believe the un-Affordable Care Act will have a positive impact on access to emergency care.

The President and his allies would like for us to accept that ObamaCare is a done deal. In fact, it’s just a bad deal. When considering that promise after promise about what it would deliver in terms of costs and care have been broken, we are right to continue to hold the President accountable for a bill shouldn’t have been passed in the first place.

Furthermore, we should not stop looking for better solutions that will actually improve our healthcare system without doing harm to patients and taxpayers. Perhaps instead of listening to bureaucrats in Washington we should tap the providers for their solutions. We may just come up with what is needed such as less government regulation and intrusion into healthcare –instead of more.

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