When President Barack Obama first launched the Affordable Care Act, better known colloquially as “Obamacare,” it was expected that it would be a game changer for the healthcare space, and drastically reduce the number of patients sent to hospital emergency rooms for primary care or non-emergency purposes. However, new data shows that ER visits are still on the upswing as a result of Obamacare.
An American College of Emergency Physicians survey involving almost 2,100 emergency room doctors revealed this week that about 75 percent of respondents reported a higher number of patient visits since January 2014. This was further broken down to 47 percent of doctors saying there were slight increases, and 28 percent reporting big increases. This is considerably higher than last year’s survey, which indicated less than half of ER doctors reported more patient visits. Obviously, this shows that newly insured Medicaid recipients covered by the Obamacare Medicaid expansion can’t find medical professionals willing to accept their plans, and have no other recourse but to head to the ER instead.
“They don’t have anywhere to go but the emergency room,” said American College of Emergency Physicians President Mike Gerardi. “This is what we predicted. We know people come because they have to.” This huge increase in ER visits is contrary to one of Obamacare’s goals, which is to alleviate the pressure on emergency rooms by ensuring patients are insured with Medicaid and have better primary care access. Separate studies show that a good number of doctors don’t accept Medicaid as it comes with a very low reimbursement rate, and according to ACEP’s survey, 56 percent of doctors said they’ve been having increases in Medicaid patients.
According to KentuckyOne Health chief physician Damian Alagia, there’s a good chance the number of ER patients will keep on moving upwards, as hospitals try their best to keep up with the demand. But, as he also noted, there’s also a formidable chance patient demand will be greater than the supply of physicians “for a while.”