ER Visits Up After Implementation of Affordable Care Act

By Joe Gullo

Published 05/21 2014 12:13PM

Updated 05/21 2014 12:30PM

WASHINGTON - A new poll finds nearly half of emergency physicians are seeing a rise in emergency room visits since January 1. 

The poll was conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and found that 86 percent of respondents expect emergency visits to increase over the next three years. Of those polled, 77 percent said their emergency rooms were not prepared for significant increases. 

"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."

Nearly 9 in 10 emergency room doctors reported that psychiatric patients were being held in their emergency rooms.  

"People having a mental health crisis seek care in emergency departments because other parts of the health care system have failed them," said Dr. Rosenau.  "Because of the critical shortage of mental health resources, some of these vulnerable patients wait for days in emergency departments.  It is simply inhumane."

The poll found 35 percent of emergency physicians seeing more Medicaid patients and 27 percent are seeing fewer privately insured patients. About 34% of emergency room doctors believe the ACA will have a positive impact on access to emergency care.

The Affordable Care Act went into effect on January 1. 

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