More patients flocking to ERs…

According to the Louisville Courier-Journal:

One of ObamaCare’s goals was to reduce pressure on emergency rooms by expanding Medicaid and giving poor people better access to primary care.

Instead, many hospitals across the nation are seeing a surge of those newly insured Medicaid patients walking into emergency rooms.

Nationally, nearly half of ER doctors responding to a recent poll by the American College of Emergency Physicians said they’ve seen more visits since Jan. 1.

That’s a problem since an average ER visit costs $580 more than a trip to the doctor’s office.

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Why’s this happening?

 

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The ER crunch shouldn’t be a  surprise.

Studies have shown that Medicaid patients were among the most frequent ER users before health reform.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates Medicaid patients made up 9 percent of the general population but accounted for 15 percent of emergency visits.

And, there’s little reason to think that newly insured would be any different.

In fact, claims data indicates that the newly insured, are more likely to use emergency rooms than traditional Medicaid patients.

More specifically, a study in the journal Science found that expansion of a Medicaid program for uninsured adults increased ER use by 0.41 visits per person, or 40 percent relative to visits among a control group.

So, we ask again: why is that?

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The conventional wisdom is that:

First, here’s a shortage of primary care doctors … especially ones who accept “below cost” Medicaid patients.

So, Medicaid patients try to schedule an appointment with a primary care doctor may run into problems.

If the doctor is accepting new Medicaid patients and there are appointment slots available, they may be for a couple of weeks in the future at an inconvenient time.

No appointment needed at an ER … and they’re open 24 hours a day.

Sure you may have to wait for a while, but that’s a small price to pay.

And, waiting time is the only price to pay … since the Medicaid ER bills are paid from tax payer coffers, not by the patients.

If the price of a service is “free”, why should the patient care if the cost is $500 higher?

It’s common sense and natural consumer behavior.

Bottom line: Don’t expect ER lines to get any shorter … stay healthy and avoid accidents.

#HomaFiles

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