Many medical experts believed that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, which became a law in March 2010, will reduce the number of emergency room (ER) visits. However, the number of ER visits has increased in the last year.
American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) conducted a poll with its member physicians to analyze the changes in ER patient volume and care since Jan. 1, 2014, which is when the requirement to have health care came into ACA.
About 75 percent of the participating physicians revealed that the number of ER visits in 2014 increased in comparison to 2013. Most of the physicians reported no or least reduction in ER visits. About 90 percent of the participating physicians also reported that the severity of injury or illness amid emergency patients has increased to 44 percent, or remained still at 42 percent.
Michael Gerardi, the president of ACEP suggests that reliance for emergency care was higher than ever before. Emergency departments are open day and night and they do not turn away any patient.
"Rather than trying to put a moat around us to keep people out, it's time to recognize the incredible value of this model of medicine that people need," says Gerardi.
About 28 percent of the physicians suggest that there have been a significant increase in ER visits since the requirement to have health insurance came into effect. The poll also reveals that more than 56 percent physicians also believe that the volume of Medicaid patients has also increased.
"There is strong evidence that Medicaid access to primary care and specialty care is not timely, leaving Medicaid patients with few options other than the emergency department," says Dr. Orlee Panitch, an emergency physician at MEPHealth. "In addition, states with punitive policies toward Medicaid patients in the ER may be discouraging low-income patients with serious medical conditions from seeking necessary care, which is dangerous and wrong."
The report also highlighted that there is a shortage of primary care physicians in the U.S. Many physicians do not accept Medicaid patients as Medicaid does not pay adequately. Dr. Gerardi reveals that even though people have health insurance it does not ensure timely access to medical needs.
Some medical experts suggest that many people find making an appointment as a hassle. As Obamacare also covers visits to the ER, people find it easier to visit their nearest emergency department to seek timely attention.
Photo: Robert Couse-Baker | Flickr